Posted in Drinkables, The Flavors of Asia, The Grocery Shop-a-holic

In Which One Samples a Spicy Indonesian Coffee…

Tora Bika Ginger Coffee
Tora Bika Ginger Coffee

The addition of spices to coffee is a practice that goes as far back as the very beginnings of the drink itself.  In the Arab nations where coffee-drinking first gained ground, cardamom is added to what is called al-qahwaa thick, rich, bittersweet brew.  Turkish coffee is prepared in a similar fashion, though it does eschew the spices most of the time.  In other parts of the Middle East, cinnamon and/or cloves are sometimes substituted for the cardamom.

In Asia, where more tea is drunk than coffee, the principle of adding spices to one’s brew of choice has led to the creation of chai, that wildly and widely popular milky tea infused with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper.  In Malaysia and Singapore, they have teh tarik halia or simply teh halia which features milk tea livened up with the zingy, restorative taste of root ginger.

And there is jahe susu, an Indonesian coffee beverage that is also livened up with ginger.

Sweet, hot, and spicy...
Sweet, hot, and spicy…

A colleague who recently came back from Indonesia brought back packets of Torabika instant jahe susu for the rest of us.

According to the English section of the manufacturer’s website, Torabika’s ginger brew features a mix of Robusta coffee, full-cream milk, and ginger powder to create a uniquely warming yet revivifying drink.  The fiery taste of the ginger helps to tone down the harsh bitterness characteristic of Robusta coffee and the milk helps to round it all out.  Not many people will appreciate the flavor combination, but if you love spice as much as I do, it’s worth a shot.

I should warn you, however, that it’s a rather strangely-textured drink.  Once you’ve dissolved the mix in hot water, it goes down smoothly at first.  And then, you run into the rather gritty lot of spicy-hot ginger shavings.  It’s also off-putting that, despite all the stirring that you do, there will always be a dark, grainy sludge at the bottom of the cup – evidence that there was just too much ginger or that said ginger wasn’t ground as finely as it should have been.

Nevertheless, if you could just put the textural issues to one side, it’s actually a pleasant way to get your motor up and running.



Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended in June 2016 These days, she works full time at Philippine Tatler as a features writer under the nom de guerre Marga Manlapig. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel. Follow her on Instagram at @midgekmanlapig.

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