“I don’t understand coffee.”
Culuikha glanced at the guy who was tuning his acoustic guitar. He was dead serious, and his face was all wrinkles. His thick, calloused index finger was on the fifth fret of the bottom E string. Ears listening very, very carefully as he didn’t have a tuner. Culuikha just finished wiping the coffee residue scattered around the coffee machine when his musician friend spoke. His name was Awang, two years older than Culuikha, who earned money from (freelance) performing. For the last two months, Awang played regularly on the weekend at Culuikha’s café – he found Awang’s playing style suited the whole mood he wanted the café to deliver.
Awang’s voice, on the other hand, was pure disaster. Culuikha never understood how a skillful classical guitarist like him couldn’t sing like, at all. Perhaps it was true that God was fair; Awang was living proof.
“I don’t understand guitar, either,” replied the barista, “Which part of coffee you don’t understand?”
“I don’t get it why you charge people like, thirty thousand for a cup, meanwhile I can get a two thousand outside,” he gestured the stall near the café, “They all are coffee, right?”
Culuikha snorted, “Say, how much is your dream guitar?”
“Fender,” Awang stopped tuning his guitar. Thumb brushed chin as he thought about it deeply, “I heard it’s about thirty million – but the one I’m saving money for is around ten million. Why are you asking?”
“But I think I’ve seen a guitar which costs only half a million?”
“Don’t you even think to compare those two,” said Awang in high tone, “Fender is a whole new level of guitar; it’s the quality meets design, they use ebony for the fret, and the tone is perfect! Also – why are you laughing?”
“It also applies to my coffee.”
Awang was about to object, but Culuikha gestured him not to. He approached the espresso machine, filled the reservoir with filtered water and pressed the ‘on’ button. Awang said nothing but he was curious, so he examined how Culuikha removed the portable filter, re-checked the right basket and finally added the coffee grounds to it. The blond grabbed a tamper – small device with a wooden handle – to compress the espresso for a strong-tasting shot. Culuikha locked the filter onto the head of the machine and put a glass container under the faucet. It took three minutes until the smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the room.
In another cup, Culuikha poured one hundred milliliters of hot water, then added the double shot on top.
“You can add sugar if you like,” the barista smirked as he handed his creation to Awang.
“…how much it will cost me, though?” Awang asked cautiously, fully aware of Culuikha’s slyness.
Culuikha rolled his eyes, “I won’t cut your payroll, I swear.”
The owner of this café couldn’t be trusted, Awang swore; but he accepted the offer eventually. The coffee looked innocent, black and thick, also smelled nice. He took the first sip without sugar – and amazed by the taste. Culuikha won just by seeing Awang’s change of facial expression, it was already a compliment.
“That’s my ‘Fender’, Wang,” Culuikha concluded, “It’s all about the personal touch.”
Awang didn’t say anything – but he solemnly vowed he would never drink instant coffee ever again.