Back in 1663 when the Dutch still ruled the land and Jakarta was called Batavia, Kapitein Gan Djie and his wife used to offer tea for worn-out workers and merchants who passed in front of his office in the heart of Glodok. This simple act of kindness made tea an important part of Jakarta Old Town’s history. More than three hundred and fifty years later, Pantjoran Tea House was born.
The birth of Pantjoran Tea House is a part of the revitalization of Jakarta Old City, a joint task between Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corp (JOTRC), the local government, and the Ministry of Education and Culture. This great effort aims to revive the historic area and make it into a distinctive attraction.
Pantjoran Tea House occupies the building that housed Jakarta’s oldest pharmacy: Apotheek Chung Hwa. The exterior of this two-story structure is kept intact, while the interior is arranged into a traditional Chinese shophouse. The big windows and the use of tegel kunci-style flooring adds to that vintage feeling, asking customers to time-travel for a while.
Despite its well-thought construction, one might say that Pantjoran Tea House relies too much on its historical values. A lot of things need more attention and work, such as limited parking space and the quality of food. There are indeed a couple of tasty dishes like Prawn with Salted Egg, but the variety of menu makes this tea house seem like just another Chinese restaurant. The intended specialty of this place, tea, also feels too generic.
Although the location and historical values are enough to invite both locals and tourists (at the time of our visit, there were two tables occupied by English-speaking tourists) for the first time, a restaurant’s survival eventually depends on food and service. At the end of the day, it is what will keep people coming back for more. In short, my eyes and minds were pampered well, but my taste buds still look for another reason to come back other than the Salted Egg Shrimp.
Perhaps Pantjoran Tea House could improve the quality of food and make the menu more interesting by incorporating dishes like “The Kapitein’s favorite”? After all, the establishment is still in its beginning and have room to be better. We wish Pantjoran Tea House the best of luck, hopefully they can write a beautiful story that lives up to Gan Djie’s tea legacy.