Indonesia’s Starlings: Roving Coffee Sellers

“Welcome to the roving coffee sellers’ area,” read the words written on the red entrance gate to Jl. Prapatan in Senen, Central Jakarta, an area now known as Kampung Starling. Parked along the first 100 meters of the road were hundreds of bicycles and dozens of food wagons. The bicycles belonged to a group of men referred to as starling. The term is derived from “Starbucks keliling” a play on the name of the famous American coffeehouse chain, with keliling meaning mobile, hence they are roving coffee sellers. In the front part of each bicycle, sachets of instant drinks of various brands hang from the basket, including coffee, tea, fruit-flavored beverages and milk. Also placed in the basket are prepacked cups of instant noodles and light snacks such as nuts. On the back of the bike, meanwhile, is an icebox, thermos, plastic cups and cigarettes. Slamet was one of the first people in the kampung to sell coffee on bicycles in the early 2000s. Since the settlement appeared in the 1980s up to when the starling businesses mushroomed, people sold bottled tea on pushcarts. The 40-year-old reminisced about the days when he started using a bicycle for business and people laughed at him. Now that the business has grown, Slamet said he wished only for all coffee sellers to be healthy and always be careful while selling beverages on the roads.