Indah. The word means “beautiful” in Indonesian. For the Columbia-based coffee company that displays the word as the mark of its operation, “Indah” describes the art of coffee-making.
Nick and Stefanie Hauser were certainly coffee-drinkers before, but it was in their travels they were inspired to turn their love of coffee into something more.
“We were traveling in Asia, and we loved local food,” says Nick Hauser. “Going to these places where they prepared the food right in front of you. But when we ordered beverages, the coffees and teas were all powdered mixes, stirred with hot water. And we were disappointed that, here we had all this authentic, fresh local food, and the beverages didn’t match.”
In an area of the world known for its coffee beans, the Hausers wanted to experience roasts created by traditional means. Instead, they found convenience and commercialization taking precedence over craftsmanship.
Nick started asking locals where he could get “real coffee.” One day, a friend from Indonesia said he could supply Hauser with “raw” (unroasted) coffee. From this, Nick set out to learn how to roast his own coffee. He wanted to recreate the traditional experience himself.
The task was difficult to learn without the proper equipment; he roasted his first batch in a popcorn popper. But Hauser persisted, and began to prevail.
“I just fell in love with the process,” says Nick.
Wanting to pursue this new interest further, Hauser next traveled to Sumatra, and started learning how coffee is cultivated. His second experience roasting coffee was with an Indonesian man in his home; they used a wok, and the smoke from the process escaped through the open windows. Nick says the experience was, quite simply, “beautiful.” He and Stefanie knew they wanted to share that experience with others.
Back in Columbia, the Hausers would get together with friends and try to roast coffee. They sought feedback from those close to them; what tasted good, what needed to be improved. In 2010, they started selling their product at The All Local Market at 701 Whaley Street, which would later become Soda City Market. They worked on a portable, tabletop roaster.
“At best, we were covering our costs for our hobby,” says Hauser. “But we loved the community connection, the vendors, we loved the camaraderie. Getting to meet so many wonderful people from so many different walks of life. Were it not for coffee, we would have missed that opportunity.”
“In those first years, we stuck with it really because we enjoyed it,” he says.
Eventually, profits began to turn; as the “hobby” became more of a viable source of income, the Hausers turned their house’s detached garage into a roasting facility to increase production capacity. Then, they began to pick up wholesale customers; starting with The Oak Table, and followed by Motor Supply Company, Talulah’s, Rosewood Market and Earth Fare, to name several. Indah Coffee even became available on USC’s campus.
Fast-forward to present day; the Indah Coffee brand is known by every regular at Soda City Market, and many more. Now, the company needs its own brick-and-mortar space to roast to its full potential.
This is where our story of reviving a beautiful process connects with a revitalization effort here in the Midlands. Nick and Stefanie Hauser are proud residents of the North Main area of Columbia. It is a section of town that has long been neglected, sprinkled with abandoned buildings and unused lots. However, Nick says its citizens lovingly refer to their stomping grounds as “Uptown.” Perhaps this is because they see the potential the district has.
“There are such great communities, beautiful historic houses,” says Nick. “People are doing a lot over the past decade to renovate and care for this neighborhood. Building communities, and diversity, these are the things we love. But there’s a lack of amenities.”
That’s beginning to change; Nick says Vino Garage and War Mouth are leading the way to a North Main revival, and are setting the standard for businesses in the community. The same goes for businesses like Cotton Town Brew Lab, Lamb’s Bread, and North Main Bakery; food and beverage options play a large role in the identity of an area.
Nick and Stefanie Hauser have believed for years that the area has needed a coffee shop. As Nick says, a coffee shop is “a place for people to gather, a place to provide hospitality for this community.”
“It just feels right to be in this community,” says Nick. “This is where we live. And there’s really not a lot of options in North Columbia for people to sit down and gather.”
As the Hausers were looking for a building to house Indah Coffee’s brick-and-mortar location, developer Frank Cason shared his vision for the area with the couple, and it aligned with what they thought would be good for the community. Soon after, plans to rehabilitate the old Dunn Electric building on Sumter Street in Cotton Town were set in motion, and Indah had a future home.
“From our onset, we’ve really been about community,” says Nick. “And that’s what’s drawn us to do this.”
Indah Coffee’s building will serve as both a brew house and a café. They want to connect customers with their process. Nick and Stefanie hope to conduct public tastings, and teach about different aspects of coffee. The “Cupping Room” will provide an actual view into the coffee roasting process (a window will allow customers to peer through into the back of the house).
Nick says he has heard of research that concluded there are 450 hours of manpower that go into a single cup of coffee. He believes more of the world should be aware of this.
“[Coffee] is one of the most complex beverages on the planet,” says Nick. “There are so many things, from the agricultural components to the way the coffees are processed, to the way that things are stored and transferred… and then how it’s roasted can impact tremendously what’s in your cup, and then the care with which a barista prepares a drink. All of those things have so many variables. We want to be able to pick apart some of those aspects, and help people understand more about all of the love that goes into that cup… we want to share what makes coffee beautiful for us.”
That idea of sharing the story of the process, of helping the community at-large understand what is so special about it, plays right into Indah Coffee’s role in the revitalization of North Main Street. A flourishing community, like a beautiful cup of coffee, cannot be created instantly. It takes time, and a group effort.
“Because coffee is a part of community and gathering, we’re really excited about having a space where there is room for people to connect, to get together after work, sit around and share ideas,” says Nick Hauser.
A place for ideas to be shared, indeed. A place for the process to be framed. For the gears of revitalization to turn while the drip-drip of the newest batch of coffee fuels the machine (or the people driving the machine, as it were).
Indah Coffee hopes to open the doors to its new building in April.
Watch: Startup Spotlight at Indah Coffee’s New Sumter Street Location
Watch: Indah Coffee Presents at One Million Cups Columbia