Somewhere on a sunny farm in Indonesia, a farmer is planting the seed for your next cup of coffee—and Lokal Cold Brew wants to make sure you drink it right.
Sam Ryo and Winny Tan, along with two other friends, left their homes in Indonesia as young adults and arrived in Columbus as transplants, each with their own stories of trials and tribulations. As with many migrants, the Lokal crew felt a need to bring their heritage with them without forgetting their new city home that had welcomed them so warmly.
The crew had grown up around coffee makers, farmers, and enthusiasts, as Indonesia is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, according to the European Coffee Report. For Ryo, coffee brewing was born out of curiosity; for Tan, it was a way to remember her childhood. It made sense for the crew to bring their beloved beans with them, giving back to their community the best way they knew how.
Ryo, a local “flavor scientist” (as he mysteriously described his other job), explained that before even conceiving the idea of Lokal, something felt amiss in their lives.
“It was a way for us to connect our two homes together and make something authentically Indonesian,” he said.
Not only do the beans come from their home away from home, they’re also sourced as single-origin, meaning that each batch of beans has a combination of flavors as unique as a fingerprint.
“One batch from August coming from Sumatra might taste completely different if we order another batch in July,” Tan said. She added that even the same type of bean might taste differently depending on the region, the weather it was cultivated in and the time of harvest. Once they use up the beans from one batch, they move on to another location, giving each brew its distinct, single-origin taste.
Their brand isn’t just a clever name. Not only is every aspect of the Columbus company local—from a brewing, packaging, and distribution standpoint—but they’re also able to pay tribute to small-scale farmers by sourcing beans from farms back home in Indonesia.
“Lokal is the word for ‘local’ in Indonesian, so we wanted to stay true to that,” Ryo said.
Though packaging often remains simple for many small companies, the Lokal crew weaves authentic Indonesian art into each and every bottle of cold brew. The patterns of their bottles are called Batik, and were traditionally worn as clothing. Recently graduated from Yale University as an architect, Tan meticulously designs all the Lokal labels. Since the patterns are unique to different parts of Indonesia, the label designs change whenever they source their beans from a different region.
It’s that same standard of detail and care that can be tasted in every bottle; each batch of coffee is cold-brewed for 12 hours—a practice, Ryo explained, that might have originated from Indonesia. “You can’t get the good stuff here,” Ryo said, adding that he felt there was not enough appreciation for the actual roasting process, so he partners with different local roasters to make sure that each bean is treated with love.
Cold brews, Tan and Ryo explained, are “friendlier” than your average coffee. According to these coffee experts, hot brewing burns away some of the milder and subtler flavors in coffee, whereas cold brewing can bring out floral, nutty, even chocolatey flavors.
One year after their launch, both Tan and Ryo feel that the long hours put in by their small team was an easy price to pay for the immediate gratification they get from their business model.
“As an architect, I work on projects that last three or four years,” Tan said. “With Lokal, I get to see the smile on people’s faces right away, and that means everything to me.”
“It’s not just coffee,” Ryo added. “You can make good coffee—but great coffee comes from all our stories.”
All of Indonesia, all of their painstaking work, all of their love—in one cold, colorful bottle.
Lokal Cold-Brew Coffee is available at locations such as Roosevelt Coffeehouse, Little Eater inside North Market, STUMP, Weiland’s Market, Philco Diner, Skillet, and at lokalcoldbrew.com.