Pontianak’s unique coffee experience: ‘Topless’ coffeeshop owner brews up a storm at Warung Kopi Asiang

The owner of Warung Kopi Asiang Pontianak has captured the attention and curiosity of locals and visitors alike.

By Nancy Nais

IN the bustling streets of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, lies a truly unique cafe that has captured the attention and curiosity of locals and visitors alike.

Warung Kopi Asiang Pontianak has become a local icon, drawing crowds with its unique ambiance and unconventional approach to coffee.


Run by the confident and bold Tio Thiam Siang, affectionately known as Asiang, this cafe offers not only aromatic coffee but also a glimpse into Kalimantan’s cultural heritage with a twist.

Asiang’s trademark? He prepares coffee topless, challenging social norms and expressing his confidence in a distinctive way.

Born and raised in Pontianak, Asiang, aged 68, is famous among locals for the unique way in which he prepares coffee.

Uusing Malaysia’s famous Teh Tarik style, Asiang, only clad in knee-length shorts, skillfully prepares orders for his customers in his small but very clean kitchen.

Savour an aromatic cup of coffee prepared by Asiang at his warung along Jalan Merapi in Pontianak.

From DayakDaily’s observation, the cafe is always packed with locals and visitors who are willing to queue and wait for a cup of coffee.

In the cafe, conversations flow freely, ideas exchanged and friendships forged, transcending barriers and boundaries.

Asiang’s skills in making coffee is certainly beyond doubt.

With an expressionless face, he expertly prepares dozens of cups of coffee, his hands moving with precision and speed.

Despite his busy demeanor, he never fails to engage with customers, ensuring they have a memorable experience.

Occasionally visitors can hear his voice calling out loud, “Have the guests been served yet?”, but his eyes and hands remained busy working, stirring, filtering and pouring coffee according to orders given by his servers.

On the other hand, Asiang remains alert to the comings and goings of customers, as he will deftly lift his head up from brewing to turn to the guests who have already paid to say “kamsia”, meaning thank you, in Chinese Hokkien.

Then he returns to his work, stirring, filtering and pouring the coffee once more.

Asian serves an impressive 1,500 cups or 20kg of coffee in a day.

“My approach of running a coffee shop has not only sparked conversations but has also provide a platform for cultural appreciation, indulgence and community bonding.

“As customers sip my aromatic brew, they are not just indulging in a cup of coffee but immersing themselves in an experience that celebrates Kalimantan’s rich flavors and traditions. The beans I use were carefully selected and roasted to perfection to capture the essence of the region.

“Beyond the tempting aroma and flavors, my cafe also serves as a platform for cultural exchange and appreciation. Visitors from different backgrounds are welcomed with open arms, fostering a sense of inclusivity and camaraderie,” Asiang told a delegation of journalists from Sarawak on a four-day visit to Pontianak, organised by the Consulate General of Indonesia, Kuching.

Asiang (seated, second left) sharing his views with journalists and officers from Consulate General Republic of Indonesia, Kuching.

Asked about his topless appearance when preparing coffee, Asiang said it is his trademark.

“Sometimes I wear a T-shirt, sometimes I don’t. Most of the time I don’t because people know me as the topless coffee drink maker. I’ve been brewing and selling my coffee like this for 42 years.

“This is to show my uniqueness and simplicity in life in front of my patrons, including countless Indonesia’s important figures, ministers, celebrities and even our presidents who will always patronise my cafe when ever they are in Pontianak,” he shared with pride.

The cafe was founded in 1952 by his late father, and Asiang is the second generation to continue the business to this day.

“My parents started this cafe in 1952, but the word 52 was considered not ‘lucky’ enough, so they change it to 58 (1958). You know, as the number eight means wealth and prosperity in Chinese,” he explained.

Not revealing all the details and the secret behind this popular brew, Asiang said he uses Robusta beans which are locally grown in Lampung district.

He mixes the beans into powder with his own recipe so that it has a distinctive taste and is different from coffee served at other shops.

Apart from serving black and milk coffee, Warung Kopi Asiang also serves tea, various snacks, as well as side dishes such as traditional cakes, butter toast, half boiled eggs and chicken porridge.

A popular combo at Warung Kopi Asiang Pontianak; black aromatic coffee, half boiled eggs and ‘roti kahwin’.

Admitting that many have been asking him to branch out and take his business outside Pontianak to as far as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Asiang said he is not keen to do so.

“From special coffee powder recipe to being topless when brewing them, these are my personal brand which I hold on to. This is also a traditional business started by my parents here in Pontianak,” he asserts.

Located at 191-193 Jalan Merapi, Warung Kopi Asiang Pontianak is open from 4am to 6pm every day, except during major festivals or when he is out of town.

Wrapping up his interview with a thank you, Asiang added, “Everyone who comes to Pontianak, don’t forget to visit Warung Kopi Asiang at Jalan Merapi. Once you have a good coffee, your day will be better and you would definitely come back.”

While the concept of a topless coffee shop may raise eyebrows and spark debate, it serves as a reminder of the power of individuality, self-expression, and cultural pride.

Asiang’s bold choice to challenge the norms through this unique establishment sends a powerful message of empowerment and acceptance. — DayakDaily