Mikael Jasin discusses his journey from the alleyways of Melbourne to the finals of the World Barista Championship and how coffee connects people and countries.
Placing fourth in the 2019 World Barista Championship (WBC) was no overnight success for Mikael Jasin. The Indonesian barista spent day and night training for the competition, and seven years building his experience in and knowledge of coffee.
Mikael eventually set himself the goal of making it to the WBC final, but his interest in coffee simply began with a desire to make great latte art.
“It looked really fun, seeing how baristas could draw really cool patterns with just milk and coffee. But what made me really passionate about coffee is the effect it has on everyone across the value chain,” Mikael tells BeanScene.
“From a customer’s perspective, they can come into a café up to three or four times a day to get their fix, but for baristas, it’s what they do for a living and are passionate about. As I grow in the coffee industry, I see that impact more on the farmer’s side too. It’s their whole livelihood and their family depends on it.”
Mikael works for Common Grounds Coffee Roasters in Indonesia and its subsidiary St Ali Jakarta. While he spent nine years living in Melbourne, and five of them working in coffee, his relationship with St Ali didn’t solidify until returning to Indonesia in 2017.
“I knew a lot of the team through competitions and going to their shop, but wasn’t really involved with them until after I graduated with a Masters in marketing, and saw a job ad for St Ali Jakarta,” Mikael says.
“When I got into coffee in 2012, I started at Manchester Press in Melbourne because it wasn’t as intimidating as joining one of the big roasters. It was where I would go for coffee and I enjoyed the vibe and people.”
More than a year later, Mikael moved to Operator 25 – also in the Melbourne CBD – after learning a head barista position was available through mutual friends of the café’s owner. In 2016, Mikael partnered with the owner to launch another café, Middletown, in Prahran. It was during his time in Australia that coffee competitions piqued Mikael’s interest.
“The Barista Championships [embody] what it means to be a barista for me. But back in 2015 when I first wanted to take part, I only had a few years’ experience and my English wasn’t that good,” he says.
“I competed in the Australia Coffee in Good Spirits [CIGS] Championship that year to learn how to present and compete, with the goal of competing in a Barista Championship one day.”
Mikael placed second, a result he repeated in the 2016 Australian CIGS. He also entered in the Southern Regional Barista Championship that year.
“I didn’t do too well, but no-one really wins the first time. It was a learning process,” Mikael says.
When the opportunity came to move back to Indonesia, Mikael saw it as a chance to flourish in a developing market.
“Melbourne is the coffee capital of the world but being in Indonesia allows me to be closer to origin. It’s an hour flight to go to a coffee farm. From Australia, on the other hand, it’s at least eight hours,” he says.
“I also felt like the market here in Indonesia was still growing. In terms of size, it’s actually a lot bigger than Melbourne, but coffee’s becoming more a part of people’s lifestyles and the industry’s developing in a completely different way to Australia.”
Mikael says while Indonesia has a booming specialty coffee scene, a new breed of coffee chains placing convenience over quality have sprung up.
“We’re actually excited about these new companies, because they’re growing the size of the coffee drinking market. We’re hopeful people visiting these shops will ‘upgrade’ their coffee tastes and come to us,” Mikael says. “Coffee is something you’ll never downgrade. You start drinking crap coffee then move on to specialty.”
While the wider coffee industry is moving in a different direction, Mikael says Australia’s influence can still be felt in the higher end of the market.
“A lot of the cafés in Indonesia – and around the world – base their business model on the Australian coffee shop. If you walk into a store, you’ll see a similar setup, the same machines, and smashed avo on every menu,” he says.
“Melbourne helped me navigate the waters quicker. Indonesia was all very familiar to me from the beginning. The real challenge has been adjusting people’s perceptions of coffee from being a luxury to everyday product.”
Another way Australia’s influence can be felt in Indonesia is the presence of cleaning agent supplier Cafetto, whose products Mikael has used throughout his career.
“I used Cafetto both in Melbourne and at Common Grounds. We have a distribution partner in Indonesia and only use Cafetto to clean equipment in our shops. It’s a day to day necessity,” Mikael says. “We see Cafetto everywhere, and because we use it at the shops, it’s the same process to clean the machine when we’re training, competing, and working.
“Common Grounds and Cafetto were placed back-to-back at an expo called Food and Hotel Indonesia, where I got to catch up with the team. It’s great having something so familiar all around the world.”
Mikael says his time in Australia also helped his performance in the Indonesian Barista Championship, placing second in 2018 and winning in 2019.
“It felt surreal and meant a lot to me as a career milestone,” Mikael says. “You always think about and train for it, but when it finally happens, there’s a mixture of happiness and panic when you realise you have to prepare for Worlds.”
Common Grounds Co-owner Yoshua Tanu had previously represented Indonesia at the WBC in 2014, 2016, and 2017, but Mikael was the first from the roaster – and Indonesia – to make it to the final round.
“As a company, we really wanted to be in the finals. To make it happen was surreal. We didn’t think it was possible,” he says.
Mikael’s routine focused on “purpose-driven fermentation”, using carbonic maceration processing on coffees from Panama, Ethiopia, and Indonesia to prove a good coffee can be processed anywhere.
“Going to the WBC from an origin country, I wanted to use my country’s coffee and show, if processed correctly, something as simple as Indonesian coffee can contain all these different flavours,” Mikael says.
“To have the confidence to showcase Indonesian coffee on the world stage shows that our industry is at that level. To place so high means a lot for all of us, not just me or Common Grounds, but the farmer we sourced the coffee from and the other baristas in Indonesia who thought they couldn’t make it to the finals.”
Despite his fourth-place finish, Mikael feels there is room for him and Indonesian coffee to go even further in the competition.
“I’m looking forward to taking to the world stage again and will hopefully get to do it next year when the WBC heads to Melbourne,” Mikael says. “I started my career in Melbourne, and if I could compete or even win the WBC there, it’d feel as though I’d come full circle.”
This article appears in the October 2019 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.
For more information about Cafetto, its support of industry members, and latest product range, visit www.cafetto.com