By Honey Writer
You are serious about your bike, you are serious about your Strava status, and you are serious about your training ride in the dark every morning. That’s why UpShift Tours have created a serious Bali cycling holiday. We take your gear, your health, your cycling route and your down time…very seriously. That’s what makes the UpShift Bali by Bike tour the most unique and rewarding way to travel around Bali.
There is one more thing we are seriously serious about, and that’s coffee.
So enough banging on about routes, rice fields and gradients, let’s talk about the good stuff: coffee to ride ratio.
Volcanic soil and tropical temperatures make for great crops, including coffee, chocolate and tea. Only, well, it’s not as you know it, Captain.
Bali coffee (Kopi) is very different to home. For a start it’s not filtered, so don’t drink the last 10th of your cup or you’ll get a mouthful of grit.
The Bali coffee taste is unique, even if weak; it’s earthy, black, and amazingly sweet. Actually, it’s the perfect coffee for people who don’t like coffee, suddenly a non-coffee drinker will be taking a black one sugar like it’s hot chocolate. So I guess Kopi is like coffee with training wheels.
Kopi comes as a powder in bags or prepared sachets, never fresh, and, as covered above, it’s not instant, so don’t be fooled into thinking it dissolves. The variations available are astounding. Ginger flavoured, vanilla flavoured, avocado flavoured, flower flavoured, with sugar, with milk powder….
Due to its child-like qualities, Kopi is never going to make the espresso grade, filtered or non, it’s just not a smooth experience. The local Balinese preparation is to drink it black, with a generous spoon (or three) of palm sugar, served in a latte glass ¾ full. Tourists are delivered a milky version, usually with honey or sugar syrup, (sometimes ice cubes), in a small coffee cup. It’s almost the equivalent of white tea, so it’s not everybody’s cup, especially if you’re used to your coffee strong and spirited.
Not to worry. Tourists making a fuss and turning their noses up in disgust has had a powerful and positive effect of the Bali Café experience. Starbucks, of course, made a big impression and even with a plethora of cafes and café barristers catching up and creating tasty coffee for as little as $3.00, there is a Starbucks or two in just about every established tourist area serving up coffee for $7.00 a pop.
Thanks to a lot of European travellers visiting Bali, coffee here is now quite an art form. I’ve had some outstanding brews while out and about (of course, it’s my duty to really know what’s what and take on as many versions as possible).Cold drip, espresso, long black, cappuccino (not usually foamy) and lattés abound and are clean, smooth and strong as well as beautifully presented.
What makes Coffee great here is they are not afraid to really turn the flavour up. Maybe because so many spoons of Kopi powder go into a glass, they are happy to over deliver on the ground beans, giving you a seriously healthy caffeine slam. The other good thing is it stays hot, so if a luke-warm brew drives you crazy, welcome to the tropics.
Coffee to Ride Ratios
Every morning starts with breakfast and Kopi before your ride (1:1) on some stages a coffee break is taken with the views (2:1) then a stop off at a café in town before arriving at the villa (3:1) which is also a great time for a bathroom break and Instagramming yourself with your attractively presented beverage.
If you are not a coffee fan or like to mix it up, try a fresh tropical juice (single or mixed), iced frappe, Kombucha (sweet sparkling fermented tea) or, as the locals sell it, even at 8am, Bintang! Tea is a whole other story, which, as an avid tea drinker, I’m happy to share.
Bali tea is also a bit of a shock to the system. The fertile volcanic soil seems to be a little lacking in flavour. The tea here is astonishingly cheap (box is well under the $1 mark), however, it’s more herbal tasting, and even if you like herbal tea- which I do, there’s enough of the tea taste to remind you it’s not. It’s also not quite as refreshing as tea, something you really notice when you’re looking for that nice relax on a hot day, that refreshed and hydrated feeling just doesn’t quite kick in.
Unlike coffee though, there are not many tea alternatives. Maybe because tea drinkers just aren’t as noisy as our coffee-sipping counterparts. It takes quite a bit of trial and error to find café’s that serve good tea or a variety, although UpShift have some on our list, so it’s not at emergency point yet. If you’re a person who is used to tea three times a day, you may find yourself a bit lost come teatime in Bali. My recommendation is to bring a box of your favourite with you, enough to last your holiday. You can buy some brands off the shelf if you are lucky but expect to pay anything from $8- $25 for even the smallest box of Lipton. If you are a Rooibos drinker pack your own for sure, I have not seen any red bush tea anywhere in Bali, for any price.
If that is not serious enough for you and your day must begin with a single origin organic short black, stress not, we have you covered. Order the night before and your coffee will be ready with your breakfast. We might even transfer it from it’s takeaway cup to a hot china one if you ask very nicely. Same goes for tea and if you’d like, Matcha.
Indonesia is the home of the luwak. If you have seen the movie The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson you will get a little chuckle at this Civit Coffee. As part of the Bali by Bike tour with UpShift Tours, you will get to experience the fermented coffee infusion of Kopi Luwak, as well as pet a luwak if you like, (their coats are rather lush). It’s also an opportunity to buy kopi luwak for $100 less than the shelf price. If nothing else, it’s a talking point back home.
While the grittiness still holds true, Kopi Luwak is much stronger than Kopi Kopi, it’s velvet smooth with an almost chocolate flavour that really is nothing like anything else on earth.
As well as experiencing Kopi Luwak you will also get to try a variety of flavoured Kopi and tea on a sampling board with even more to choose from in the shop attached. It’s a great souvenir to enjoy by you or your chosen ones at home.