This week, we are featuring a casual chat with Arief Said, a Mechatronics Engineering and Computer Science graduate from the University of Melbourne, who now works as a Jakarta-based coffee curator after working for years as an engineer in Melbourne.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do now?
Basically, I’m a coffee curator. I have established my own coffee roaster, which serves coffees for plenty of cafes in Jakarta. I have also recently founded Gordi, Indonesia’s first coffee subscription that aims to curate and promote the great varieties of coffees in Indonesia using online subscription, Gordi stands to make specialty coffee more available at home. We also hope that this subscription model can be the future of shopping for everything we need.
2. What did you study and work for before your current venture?
I studied Mechatronics Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Melbourne. After graduation, I work as a subsea pipeline engineer in Melbourne for over 3 years. I was responsible to design and maintain the underwater pipelines’ resistance towards the volatile nature under the sea.
3. What triggered you to take the huge switch to coffee industry?
I remember after 3 years of working at the company, I had this uneasy feeling where I thought, “Is there more to life than this for me?” So I took a pretty long break back in Indonesia. That was when I met Irfan, the founder of Anomali Coffee. Soon, I was exposed to the fact that there are various types of coffees worthy of exploration. When I got back to Melbourne, I quickly explored the specialty coffee scenes there. At the time, the specialty coffee scene in Melbourne was only recently booming, similar to the coffee scene that we can now see in Jakarta.
The turning point for me was when I attended this event held by the Indonesian Embassy in Melbourne to promote Indonesian coffee in Australia. Those who attended the event were mostly owners of “big names” in Melbourne’s specialty coffee scene, such as St. Ali, Market Lane, and Seven Seeds. Sadly, the Indonesian guy who presented the discussion on Indonesian coffee did not quite grasp the market. He was promoting Robusta coffee as Indonesia’s finest. Mind you, Robusta did not actually make it on the list of specialty coffee; hence, the individuals from Melbourne’s “big names” who attended the event were not impressed. That really was when I thought that we could really do better that this.
4. How did you shift from being an Engineer to a coffee curator?
Since that “turning point” event, I explored all of the information on Indonesia’s coffee. I also joined some roasting sessions in Melbourne and Brisbane, while I was still doing my engineering work. Finally, I realized that I might as well just dive deep into the specialty coffee scene. I was really going to quit my job, but my boss decided to grant me a year of unpaid leave instead. I got my first coffee job at Sensory Lab Melbourne, a roasting company under St. Ali group, within 2 weeks after I temporarily quit my engineering job. A year after that, I decided to marry my girlfriend, came back to Indonesia, and founded my own coffee roasting company. Fun fact, my wedding reception was also my roasting company’s soft opening, as I had a stall that served the coffee at my wedding.
5. What should students explore out of Melbourne, or other cities, to inspire their hope to become an entrepreneur?
One good thing about studying abroad is that how you can immerse yourself in a more advanced and developed market, especially in terms of lifestyle.
You have to use the opportunity to explore and understand what and how they do better than us.
Right now, Indonesia’s middle-class is booming, and consumers are more conscious of their choices of goods and services.
They can tell which one is good, average, or bad. I believe the opportunity in our country is growing. Case in point, it was very hard to find a decent cup of coffee in Jakarta. Nowadays, you can find plenty in many areas of the town.
My last advice is to be sociable. Be respectful of the friends that were there for you during your study abroad days. You never know what might come out of your friendships and acquaintanceships.
6. Any final advice for university students abroad?
I would say that when you are doing your studies abroad, it is all about building your mindset. You may not immediately notice it, but there will be a huge difference once you’re done with your studies abroad. As you already have the opportunity to live a life outside of your comfort zone, you might as well just be brave and get yourself out there, for whichever career that you aspire to have. I was an engineer, it was my career path, but I believe I could make a difference in the coffee business. So I did it.
Featured image source: www.wallpaperup.com
Article photo provided by Arief Said
Edited by Hadrian Pranjoto