Ngopi

A Kopi Tubruk, a traditional Indonesian coffee, where hot water is poured directly on ground coffee, stirred and then left to stand, made with a naturally-processed Kerinci Kayu Aro from Ngopi in Birmingham.I came across Ngopi, which opened on 9th July last year, at this year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival. Birmingham is already blessed with some outstanding coffee shops and roasters, but what makes Ngopi stand out from the crowd is that it deals exclusively in coffee from Indonesia. What’s more, all the coffee is roasted on-site in a small 1 kg roaster that sits proudly in the window. The shop itself is lovely, a simple, bright, uncluttered space which is the perfect place to showcase the coffee.

Talking of which, Ngopi, which only roasts single-origins, typically has six different beans in stock at any one time, all of which are available to buy in retail bags. One of these is on espresso, the specific bean changing roughly once a week, plus Ngopi has three different options on pour-over through the V60. This is all backed up by a range of traditional Indonesian coffee drinks, most of which involved condensed milk or ice (and often both) and use their own specific bean.

If you are hungry, there’s an all-day menu, featuring breakfast, lunch and sweet items from Indonesia. If you want something more western, there’s a selection of cakes from old friends, Cakesmiths.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Ngopi on Dale End in Birmingham, seen heading from the west...
  • ... and here from the east...
  • ... and here, head on. Note that the door on the left isn't used.
  • The sign says it all really.
  • The view from just inside the door, with the counter at the back on the left.
  • There's seating immediately to your left, where these two armchairs are in the window...
  • ... occupying the space between the two doors.
  • There's more seating between window and counter in the shape of some round tables.
  • There's a pair of tables by the left-hand wall...
  • .. and another pair to the right, followed by a single table by the counter itself.
  • The view from the counter, looking back across Ngopi. What's that to the right of the door?
  • It looks like a roaster! And indeed it is! Shielded from the seating area by bookshelves...
  • ... it's a 1kg Froco model from Indonesia. It may be small, but it's like pretty much any...
  • ... roaster that I've seen before, installed in the window in its own roastery area.
  • There's more seating against the right-hand wall, starting with a round, two-person table.
  • This is followed by a pair of sofas and another two-person table right at the back.
  • Another view of the sofas.
  • A final look at the seating.
  • These bookshelves, immediately to the right of the door, shield off the roastery area.
  • Good choice of reading material!
  • This shelf added some welcome decoration to the walls...
  • ... although pride of place has to go to the map of Indonesia on the left-hand wall.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • To business. The counter is decorated to look like a street cart.
  • This is normally how you'd approach it, from the right...
  • ... which leads you past the two grinders and, still a rare sight in the UK, a Mk II Slayer.
  • At the far end are some retail shelves...
  • ... with all of Ngopi's single-origins to choose from on the top...
  • ... and some single-serve filter bags on the middle shelf (along with the pastries)...
  • ... while on the bottom are some cakes from old friends, Cakesmiths.
  • The till is in the middle, with the drinks menu behind on the back wall.
  • Meanwhile, the food menus are on the counter, along with the choice of pour-over beans.
  • The menus in more detail, with a range of 12 Indonesian snacks and light meals.
  • I started off with an espresso, served in a classic cup on a tray, glass of water on the side.
  • My espresso was gorgeous, by the way, a naturally-processed Kerinci Kayu Aro.
  • I followed that with lunch, the Indonisian fishcakes.
  • Finally, I tried a traditional Indonesian coffee, the Kopi Tubruk.
  • Before leaving, I swapped my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, for a bag of coffee...
  • ... and was pleased to see that it had made it onto the shelf before I'd reached the door!!
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Ngopi is on the eastern side of Birmingham’s compact city centre, on Dale End as it runs below the Priory Square shopping centre. Occupying a large, simple, open space, it feels like two units joined together. The front is almost entirely glass, dominated by central square window, consisting of a single, large pane at street level and three tall thin panes on top. This is flanked by a pair of glass doors, although the one on the left is not in use. Finally, on the right is a smaller, square window, raised slightly above the pavement, which looks in on the roaster.

The entrance is through the right-hand door, which is about two-thirds of the way along. A very shallow ramp which leads up to a slightly elevated floor. The layout is uncluttered, with the counter at the back on the left and the seating arranged in two distinct groups, the first of which is between the counter and the windows. This starts with a pair of high-backed armchairs facing each other across a coffee table in the window. Next comes two pairs of round tables, each pair seating four people. Finally, a solitary two-person table sits in front of the counter.

The remaining seating is along the right-hand wall. Right at the front, however, is the roastery area, screened off from the entrance ramp by a set of bookshelves and currently in action twice a week. The roaster, by the way, is from Indonesian, quite possibly the only one in the UK. The manufacturer, Froco, came over to install it. The seating starts with a round two-person table, followed by a pair of sofas, their backs against the wall. Each has a low, rectangular coffee table with a pair of chairs on the opposite side. Finally, in the back right-hand corner is another round two-person table.

Turning to the coffee, I was blown away by the variety on offer when I visited Ngopi at the Birmingham Coffee Festival. I started my visit here with a gorgeous natural espresso, the Kerinci Kayu Aro, a really smooth, sweet coffee, a million miles from the stereotypical image of Indonesian coffee. Just as I had discovered when I went to Vietnam in 2017 and Thailand last year, you cannot characterise a country’s coffee by a single flavour profile. Indonesia is no exception to this rule.

I was there for lunch, selecting the fishcakes from the vegetarian/vegan friendly menu. These were excellent, but very different from British fishcakes, consisting of whole chunks of fish, deep-fried in batter and served with a hot sweet and sour sauce, noodles and chopped cucumber.

I also wanted to try one of the traditional Indonesian coffee recipes, particularly after my experiences with traditional Vietnamese coffee. There were two which used condensed milk and a dedicated coffee from Sulawesi (which isn’t available in retail bags, sadly), but I went for the Kopi Tubruk, where hot water is poured directly on ground coffee, stirred and then left to stand.

I was prepared for something quite strong and unsubtle, but this was anything but, a sweet, fruity and surprisingly smooth brew (I later learnt that it was made with the same natural Kerinci Kayu Aro). Like most drinks of this type, you’re well advised to stop drinking as soon as it feels a little gritty: I stopped with about one third of the cup left, at which point the remaining coffee could accurately be described as a sludge, as much ground coffee as water. It was really good though, making me wonder if I should maybe ditch my Aeropress, V60 and cafetiere…

56 DALE END • BIRMINGHAM • B4 7LS
www.ngopi.co.uk +44 (0) 1214482870
Monday 09:30 – 16:30 Roaster Ngopi (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:30 – 16:30 Seating Tables, Sofas
Wednesday 09:30 – 16:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 09:30 – 16:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:30 – 16:30 Cards Yes
Saturday 09:30 – 16:30 Wifi Free
Sunday CLOSED Power Yes
Chain No Visits 22nd July 2019

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham for more great Coffee Spots.


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3 thoughts on “Ngopi

  1. Pingback: Birmingham Coffee Festival 2019: Meet the Roasters | Brian's Coffee Spot

  2. Interesting, thanks. Will definitely try this place. I didn’t know it was here: Dale End is a real problem area [mainly after dark] due to knife violence / homelessness and other stuff, so hopefully it won’t affect their trade. This particular unit was a sex/fetish shop for a decade or so

    • The benefits of local knowledge! It looked fine when I was there, but then again, that was on a sunny summer afternoon. Maybe that’s why Ngopi closes relatively early for a coffee shop (4:30).

      Thanks,
      Brian.

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