Once upon a time, I lived in Kediri, East Java while training as a TEFL teacher for Peace Corps.
During this time,I lived with hava wonderful family who ran a warung out of the front of their house. This warung sold Indonesian fast food dishes like my favorite lontong tahu and served as the neighborhood’s coffee shop.
My host mom, who is easily one of the greatest human beings I have ever met in my life, spoiled me rotten. Every morning, I woke up to a hot cup of coffee waiting for me and came home from training to another steaming mug of the sweet brew I still associate with that home.
She never missed a cup, and some how her mom senses always allowed her to time my waking up and coming home perfectly so the coffee was always ready.
She is a Goddess, basically.
Before moving West to Panawangan, we had the custom heart to heart: “thank you for everything, I’ll miss you so much, this is the greatest family on Earth.” There were many hugs and many ugly cries. When I cry, I get a bit irrational.
During one tantrum spurred by coming home and being greeted by my cup of coffee, I cried and held my Ibu telling her she makes the best coffee I’ve ever had, and I’ll never have coffee like it anywhere ever again, and West Java will be terrible without her and her coffee-addiction-enabling.
Her eyes got wide, she had no idea how much the coffee had meant to me. Now, like the loving mother she is, she set off to fix my problem, running into her warung and coming back with a plastic bag.
This bag was filled with no less than 50 plastic packets of instant coffee, White Coffee.
My Ibu, like all warung owners I later learned, serves instant coffee that can be bought literally anywhere in this beautiful place: supermarkets, open-air markets, side of the road stalls, from traveling snack sellers.
I had treasured the coffee that my Ibu was brewing for me every morning, somehow knowing exactly how much milk and sugar to add to each mug so it was perfect, and every single cup had come out of a packet.
I love remembering this. Remembering how magical every small thing in this country was to me when I was new. I have seen White Coffee packets every day of my life for the past two years, and at one time it was providing the greatest comfort of my day. Something incredibly special from my Ibu to me.
The fact that the coffee was instant doesn’t make my Ibu any less caring, in fact, I almost love her more for it. Without realizing it, she trained my taste buds to love the instant coffee constantly served here, while infusing every future cup with memories and comfort.
To this day, every time I take a sip of the sweetened White Coffee, I think of my home in Kediri. The quiet mornings I spent eating breakfast while my Ibu continued cooking and the fresh breeze coming in from the laundry room.
To me, White Coffee will always be a sip of home and the flavor of family.