In the heart of Seria town in the Belait District, there is a new little coffee shop tucked away in the quiet residential area along Jalan Nakhoda Manis.

The warm comforting smells of freshly roasted coffee envelops the air, greeting everyone who enters the front door of the homegrown café, Bicara.

Knowing how to make a good cup of joe is not the only thing that customers appreciate about the humble coffee place – it is the welcoming minimalistic atmosphere.

Owners Herman Shah Azmi and Izzat Ismail would greet customers with a smile and after time they would even remember their favourite coffee drink without even asking.

Image: Azrina Zin

Their commitment to getting to know their customers’ names to what they have ordered is what makes them a new favourite place among the tight-knit Seria community.

Seeing and talking to customers are the two good friends’ favourite part of the day. 

People from different walks of life would come through the swinging door and grab their morning coffee and be in the same room, talking with each other about their day.

“We wanted to create a space for people to enjoy and also feel welcome,” he said.

The rise and grind of Bicara

When they first opened Bicara on the first of June, the two friends had no prior experience on how to run a café.  The idea of brewing up a business just started during the pandemic.

Image: Azrina Zin

It was during their time working from home that they both jumped at the opportunity to open Bicara as they saw a gap in the coffee scene in the Belait district. 

This pushed them to turn a living room into a coffee shop within a month.

In addition to working full-time in the private sector, both Herman and Izzat have taken the time to learn about all things coffee. From the dark to fruity flavors, to the roasting and grinding of the drink.

Image: Azrina Zin

The duo came up with the inspiration of Bicara after being impressed by the vibrant coffee scene and culture on their travels around the country.

As the name indicates, Bicara comes from the Malay word meaning “talk or speak”, reflecting the duo’s desire to run the cafe where people can just grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a light conversation with the baristas.

Image: Azrina Zin

“The word Bicara has a universal appeal and the idea of combining enjoyable coffee as well as a place where the local community can come by and enjoy a caffeinated beverage over some good conversation, forms the basis of our operation and this is something that anyone can relate to,” shared Herman.

To summarise, Bicara is all about coffee and community, he added.

The people behind the counter

It was during their cupping coffee session in Bali, Indonesia where Herman and Izzat learned about the different types of flavours and aroma notes in coffee.

Image: Azrina Zin

Herman met Izzat in 2014 and they both shared a growing interest for coffee. The former loves brewing coffee while the latter is an avid coffee drinker.

Coffee has always been the passion and profession for both friends. Every day they would start their day measuring the time and temperature at which the coffee is roasted.

According to Herman, the way the ground coffee beans are brewed brings out the aroma and flavour chracteristics, from a fruity to a chocolatey taste. 

The 42-year-old has been roasting and experimenting with different types of coffee beans since 2016 where he would mostly share his coffee experiments with his friends and family. 

Before Bicara, there was Coffeetology, a business he ventured into selling coffee on social media. 

Meanwhile, for Izzat, if he is not behind the counter, he would be on his camera – the person responsible for capturing the soul of the cafe in every photo he takes.

The black-and-white aesthetic Instagram feed with a pop of colour manages to attract a growing number of followers onto their social media page @bicara.lab

What also make Bicara stand out from the rest are their witty and memorable captions on their well-curated Instagram by Herman which embodies the Nusantara and philosophical essence around the word “Kopi”.

According to the two friends, the cafe takes inspiration from the Malay Archipelago of South-East Asia. 

“We wanted to bring in that local flavour to the table,” said Herman, who would spend most of his nights thinking of the next caption for their post.

Inside Bicara

From the cool colour scheme to the choice of furniture, Bicara is all about creating a contemporary and relaxing feel of a cafe with its white tiles and rendered concrete walls.

Image: Azrina Zin

The coffee shop can only accommodate a maximum of eight customers, but its modest size adds to the appeal of the place being an intimate and cozy space.

Looking closely at the logo design, one will be able to see three dots in the letter “b”, representing the universal chat icon.

The welcoming feeling is even enhanced by the homely decor elements.

Each piece at the cafe holds a meaning to both owners; from the surfboard to the curtain of the “Great Wave of Kanagawa” painting.

When you look around, you cannot help but notice the cute illustration of a man relaxing in the coffee mug and the “Only Good Vibes” on the wall, many of which have been hand drawn by Herman himself.

What’s brewing

The cafe focuses on quality, fresh brewed coffee and pour-over options. The team mates are planning to introduce different types of espresso blends every few months.

Image: Azrina Zin

When it comes to flavours, the two friends realised that most Bruneians prefer the more traditional and the chocolatey notes. 

They want to change all that by introducing their customers to different notes and methods.

For September’s special, they are introducing the best-selling Australian, Seven Seeds Espresso Blend that has a fruity and a hint of caramel flavour to it. 

Image: Azrina Zin

Bicara will also have a small selection of locally baked goods that will pair perfectly with your morning coffee.

Since the opening, the cafe has been getting positive responses and amazing support, Herman said. “Alhamdulillah it was really unexpected but by word of mouth, the business has been good so far,”

On the first few days of operations, he added, the café received more than 20 orders. Now, it has doubled the amount of orders

However, according to Herman one of the biggest challenges of running the coffee shop is bringing in the espresso blends from outside. 

“Ever since the pandemic, there have been delays in our orders and sometimes it would take a few weeks to arrive. Sometimes we have to ration the supplies until we have enough for the month,” he explains, adding that every day is a new lesson for them.

When asked about future plans for the cafe, Herman said that they want to focus on growing the cafe and adding more items to their menu to give customers more options.

This article was first published on September 26, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 108

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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