Ever heard of Kopi Joss? It is charcoal coffee and yes it is a thing. To be more specific, it is placing a hot piece of charcoal into a cup of black coffee. I heard about the combination of charcoal and coffee but never thought much about it until I started seeing charcoal lattes pop-up for Halloween. Of course, the idea of mixing charcoal and coffee together sparked my curiosity. What is charcoal coffee? I researched this and discovered some interesting things that I wanted to share.
Placing a piece of hot charcoal into black coffee originated in Java, Indonesia. This practice is prominent in the city of Yogyakarta in southern Java. Kopi Joss is a popular street beverage. It is usually served from roadside stalls called “Angkringan.” Getting coffee from street vendors is very much part of the Indonesian coffee culture.
Note: Yogyakarta is home to some stunning Buddhist and Hindu temples.
“Kopi” means coffee in Indonesian (I’m careful with this statement because I do not speak Indonesian. I am aware that there are various languages and dialects in Indonesia. Based on what I’ve read, kopi means coffee). “Joss” is apparently the sound that the coffee makes when it comes into contact with the hot charcoal.
This is very theatrical. A piece of red-hot glowing charcoal is put into a cup of coffee causing it to sizzle and boil over. You are instructed to wait for a few moments before removing the hot charcoal from your drink with a spoon. The taste has been described as a woody burnt aftertaste. However, it doesn’t seem to interfere with the overall natural taste of the coffee.
Charcoal lattes derive from this concept. Charcoal lattes also seems to be one of the latest coffee trends. I find this interesting because the Indonesians have been making kopi joss for a long time. There is some information to suggest that it was first made in the 1960s. Therefore, the West has finally caught up to this Indonesian coffee technique.
Is ingesting charcoal safe? The short answer is yes. Charcoal does help remove toxins from your system due to it being a porous substance. It is used more often than you would expect. It is actually used in the water filters that you buy from the stores. Ingesting charcoal helps cure gastrointestinal problems especially if you take a poison or a narcotic. Charcoal is also used to reduce bloating and gas, lower cholesterol, and can help reduce the affects of hangovers.
However, charcoal’s medicinal uses are from activated charcoal. Also, charcoal can absorb other nutrients. I know that coffee has its own medicinal qualities. I wonder if charcoal can interfere with these qualities by absorbing nutrients. The street vendors serving kopi joss do instruct you not to add sugar to the drink. It will cause discomfort and/or diarrhea. Actually, the same is true if you ingest too much charcoal. There are other natural remedies to stomach troubles but a small amount of charcoal in your coffee will not hurt you.
I have personally never tried kopi joss. I am very interested though. Indonesia is home to some of the best coffee in the world. Of course I’m being biased because Sumatran is my favorite coffee. Coffee is very much part of the Indonesian identity. Even the synonym of coffee, “Java,” derives from the Indonesian island of the same name. Indonesian coffee culture promotes drinking coffee sociably in order to enjoy the comforting and medicinal properties it has on the body and spirit. Coffee is engrained in Indonesia’s daily life. You can find it almost anywhere.
Kopi Joss certainly is attention grabbing and a part of the Indonesian coffee culture. I fully appropriate the fact that the West is being introduced to other coffee cultures and techniques. Putting a hot piece of charcoal in black coffee is certainly distinctive. It is just one part of Indonesia’s unique and splendid coffee culture.