Indonesia's Very Own Original Kopitiam: Warung Kopi Phoenam in Makassar

December 10, 2014 Ellyna Tjohnardi
If you have less than 24 hours to spend in a new city, where would you go to? For me, the answer is pretty easy, as I would first and foremost, head down to the best coffee place in town that the locals flock to.
Warung Kopi Phoenam Jampea Makassar
Where it all began: Warung Kopi Phoenam Jampea, Makassar
It was a no brainer question to Pak Gosal, a native Makassar, who was assigned to accompany the guests from Jakarta, including myself during our visit. Pak Gosal pointed me to Warung Kopi Phoenam (pronounced as /phu-nang/) on Jalan Jampea, the first and original location of the 6 decades-old legendary kopitiam in Makassar, or what used to be called Ujungpandang.
Kaya Toast, Teh Tarik and Kopi Susu
The Kopitiam signature: Kaya Toast, Teh Tarik and Kopi Susu
Warung Kopi Phoenam or Phoenam Coffee Shop could be said to be a pride of Makassar, because it originated from the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, circa 1946. Today, more than 60 years down the road, Phoenam has expanded its reach to other cities across Indonesia, including several franchised stores in Jakarta. I suppose no other coffee shop in Indonesia comes close to Phoenam in terms of the legacy. The history of Warung Kopi (warkop) Phoenam is aplenty online, so I won't bore you with History 101.
Warung Kopi Phoenam Jampea Makassar
A vintage photo of the three Phoenam founders
As we pulled into the driveway of the warkop on jalan Jampea, the place has obviously undergone a facelift since it was first open. Today, the coffee shop looks like a modern shophouse with white tiled floor and there's even free wifi for the guests!

The main area of the coffee shop is actually open air and allows smoking guests, but for non-smokers, there's a separate non-smoking area with air conditioning, accessible through a door near the back of the shop.

Warung Kopi Phoenam Jampea Makassar


I saw a middle aged Chinese lady near the cash register...Upon some casual inquiry, turns out she's related to the first generation owners of Phoenam. The folks there were not intimidated by a camera-wielding bleached blonde chinese girl taking photos of their store, so I guess they must be used to it (the fame) already.

Over the strong Toraja coffee, Pak Gosal pointed out to me that coffee shops in Makassar were mostly run by Hainanese migrants and they were usually located in street corners or junctions. I suppose coffee-drinking habit is as much ingrained in the Chinese' blood as it is to Italians.

Making teh tarik
Unlike kopitiam in Singapore / Malaysia, there's not much theatrics when making teh tarik here

The menu is pretty straightforward, the usual offerings at kopitiams: black coffee with sweet condensed milk, Ovaltine (hot chocolate), kaya toast, teh tarik and such. Oh, I saw cappuccino on the list, but you can have that in any modern cafe. If you're feeling gutsy, try the Kopi with Telur Susu Madu (black coffee stirred with egg yolk, milk and honey). Sounds like it'll make you puke, but this is actually a pretty popular traditional coffee combo in Indonesia, I've never tried it myself so I wonder how it would taste like...

The Phoenam black Toraja coffee is, to put it bluntly, very bitter and overbearing, even to someone who is used to drinking black coffee like me. After just a few sips, I gave up my cool and finally mixed in the sweet condensed milk, not too much though. Pak Gosal personally recommends to order the Kopi Susu and request for the milk to be separated, because sometimes the standard serving might be too sweet to some people. Besides that, I ordered the Teh Tarik out of curiosity, just to see how they 'pull' the milk and tea mixture. Turns out it was quite an ordinary method, still interesting to shoot). The Teh Tarik is quite sweet, maybe I'd enjoy it better, served with ice.
Kopi and sweet condensed milk
Kopi and sweet condensed milk IDR 15,000
As for the food, the choices are typically comfort food in a kopitiam; either toasted or egg-soaked and fried egg or instant noodles with various toppings. If you are used to biscuit like crispy and crumbly kaya toast in Jakarta, Phoenam's is slightly different, as the bread is thick and soft, but crispy outside. The kaya jam is made in house and could be made as a souvenir for your folks back home, selling at IDR 30,000/jar.
Roti Goreng Telur Corned Beef Keju
Roti Goreng Telur Corned Keju (fried egg-soaked bread with corned beef cheese filling) IDR 20,000
Indonesians have to have chili with everything they eat (but not me!)
Teh Tarik IDR 17,000
Phoenam Kaya Toast
Phoenam Kaya Toast IDR 12,000
The prices are reasonable, although not cheap, it's still cheaper than the prices in Jakarta. Oh, the lady actually used a traditional sempoa (abacus) to total my bill, this is a rare sight nowadays, don't you think? The next thing I will do, is to try the Phoenam coffee shop in Jakarta, I heard the coffee composition is slightly adjusted to suit the market in Jakarta. Among the flock of kopitiam franchises in Jakarta, Phoenam is not as well known, but it has a great potential yet untapped by the local market, because Phoenam has what others don't: history.

vintage chinese abacus
vintage chinese abacus


Warung Kopi Phoenam Makassar
Jl. Jampea No. 5 E
Ph: +62 411 3625453
Warung Kopi Phoenam also opens in other cities in Indonesia: Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Solo Jogjakarta, Samarinda, Palu & Papua

For live and regular updates,
stalk my Instagram: @ellynatjohnardi

Read more...

Previous Article
Have You Ever Dined Inside a Container?
Have You Ever Dined Inside a Container?

There's a reason why some people just can't move on and that's exactly the...

Next Article
(New): Patio Trattoria & Pizzeria
(New): Patio Trattoria & Pizzeria

Have you heard? There's a brand new Italian restaurant in South Jakarta...