Deep in Indonesia’s Lembang forest, row after row of coffee bushes dotted with red berries grows between pine trees. The plants are surrounded by leafy banana trees, willowy bamboo trees, and tuberous cassava plants.
While this forest may look as if it’s running wild, it’s been carefully curated by its new owners, friends Hedi Rusdian, 28, and Gianjar Saribanon, 40. The two men bought the land in 2014, built a cabin on its mountainside, and are now determined to bring a new face to coffee farming in Indonesia via their YouTube channel, which has been aptly named BBQ Mountain Boys.
Before diving into the world of farming, Rusdian was a jeweler to rock bands including Metallica. After running a jewelry business for six years, Rusdian was looking for an escape from the fast-paced world of fashion, which is how he found himself working in Japan. During his downtime, he started taking courses that embraced the slow life, such as agriculture and slow cooking.
It was also there that he found himself enamored by the stylish Japanese farmers who were proud of their livelihoods. It was the antithesis of how Rusdian believed farmers were viewed in his homeland of Indonesia. While Indonesia has a rich coffee farming heritage and artisan coffee shops decorate every street corner in the country, Rusdian felt there was a disconnect for the tech-driven youth between the coffee shops and the hillside farmers.
“People talk about how cool it would be to become a coffee shop owner or barista. But no one thinks about how cool it is to be a farmer,” Rusdian told Insider. “When they see an Indonesian farmer, they think they are poor and have no proper life, so if we become farmers, we will be poor.”
Rusdian set out to change that very outlook.
When Rusdian returned to Indonesia, he met Gianjar Saribanon, an engineer and a blacksmith. The two men bonded on social media over their love of artisan crafts, and Saribanon became intrigued by Rusdian’s idea of showing city dwellers what farming 2.0 could look like.
In 2014, Rusdian and Saribanon bought five acres of land in a pine forest in Lembang, West Java, and named it Saux Farm. While the coffee farm is only a 15-minute drive from the nearest town, it feels light-years away from the modern world.
Saribanon comes from a family of farmers, and his parents had taught him how to grow and harvest coffee. Even so, farming is backbreaking work, as was building their log cabin. The trees in the forest are protected, which meant the duo had to order logs for their two-storey cabin from another city, drive them to the mountain, and then with the help of friends carry each log the last two kilometers up the mountain on foot.
“We needed three people to carry each log,” said Rusdian. “It took us three weeks to carry them up the mountain and three months to build the cabin.”
The cabin — in which they live part-time — has since become a tool shed-cum-larder where they store jars of pickles they are fermenting. Saux Farm has also played host to local celebrities, chefs, mixologists, and Indonesian bands.
The duo had to wait three-and-a-half years before the coffee bushes were mature enough to be harvested. During the day they would work the land, ride their motorbikes along the mountainous trails, and create tools over the outdoor blacksmith’s forge. In the evening, they would swap tales with friends over Wagyu steak that had been covered in coffee rub and cooked in a smoker outside their cabin.
So it was that their way of life earned them the moniker the BBQ Mountain Boys.
In late 2018, Rusdian and Saribanon started sharing videos of their rural idyll on YouTube. Viewers were hooked on the waistcoat-wearing, flat-cap sporting farmers, who spent their time throwing axes, kayaking, and blending cocktails under the stars.
Since launching their YouTube page, they’ve garnered 220,000 followers. Rusdian and Saribanon spend up to two days filming each week, and up to three weeks editing each YouTube video. The cabin doesn’t have WiFi, so they have to wait until they go back to town to edit the videos.
The channel’s viewers, Rusdian said, are mainly 17- to 35-year-old males from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan. Their most-viewed video, which features Indonesian pop star Ariel Noah, has pulled in more than a million views since it premiered on April 15. The video follows the pop star riding his motorbike along the mountain trails to the farm, cooking his lunch over hot coals, and using hand tools to plant crops with Saribanon.
They’ve also attracted sponsors like Guinness and a Land Rover restoration company called Casablanca Works. In March, they launched a collection with Indonesian sneaker company Compass.
Aji Handoko, creative director for Compass, told Insider he knew he wanted to work with the BBQ Mountain Boys and create a collection that celebrates Indonesian culture. While the BBQ Mountain Boys might not have the largest YouTube channel in Indonesia, Handoko said the BBQ Mountain Boys has something that sets it apart from other YouTubers.
“The BBQ Mountain Boys is arguably the only brand in Indonesia that can change the outdated and ‘uncool’ concept of agricultural work into something fresh and relevant,” Handoko said. “Their way of presenting content is extraordinary.”
Rusdian says the core feature that sets the BBQ Mountain Boys apart from the competition is their lust for all things outdoors.
“There are so many people doing the same thing as us, but they focus on one speciality,” said Rusdian. “They might just talk about barbecue, or they might just talk about farming or how to make wine — with BBQ Mountain Boys it is all one lifestyle.”
The content creators were also recently featured on Tatler Asia’s 2021 list of tastemakers. The society magazine lauded Rusdian and Saribanon for helping local coffee farmers thrive, noting that the BBQ Mountain Boys’ content “encourages coffee farmers to learn more about creating quality crops, embrace fairtrade and push local brands to flourish.”
But the duo is not finished discovering just what their brand can be. In December 2019, they launched the BBQ Mountain Boy Burger restaurant in Bandung, the capital of West Java. Rusdian designed the restaurant’s menu, which includes a cabin-style burger stacked with the BBQ Mountain Boys’ crispy beef bacon. Next year, they plan to launch a lifestyle collection of barbecue tools and knives.
While they are keen to show that farming has a future, Rusdian shyly admitted that they both have alternate revenue streams to fall back on. The former celebrity jeweler owns a hairstyling product factory, a hair salon, and a property company. Saribanon, meanwhile, works for the Ministry of Education in Indonesia.
That said, the BBQ Mountain Boys are determined to show that modern farming can be a profitable way of life. The duo sells microgreen sets online for Rp69,000 ($4.83) alongside their roasted coffee for Rp89,000 ($6.23) for 60 grams, of which they said they sell up to 10 tonnes a year.
As for Rusdian’s sense of mission, it boils down to giving farming a new look.
“I really want to put the modern outdoor way of life on people’s radar,” Rusdian said. “We want to let people know that this can be what the modern farmer looks like.”
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