They've got you awake

Jan 13, 2019, 10:20 IST | Anju Maskeri and Ekta Mohta

Coffee is more than a cappuccino. Meet the men and women who are bringing the best brews, curated from across estates, to your doorstep

They've got you awake
Shannon D'Souza. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

'We wanted to tie up with lesser-known estates'
Koinonia Coffee Roasters I Freshly roasted beans
Founder: Shannon D'Souza

Sydney-born Shannon D'Souza of Koinonia Coffee Roasters knew he had made the right business move when he realised that customers were dropping by at their diminutive Chium Village cafe, Khar, just for artisanal coffee. The space — Koinonia translates to community in Greek — didn't offer much else. "Also, it's not like it's the most accessible location," he says. It was the quest to provide world-class coffee using high-quality beans in India, that made D'Souza move to Mumbai in 2009.

Shannon D'Souza

He travelled to Italy and Thailand, where he picked up the nuances of roasting. While his family already owned tea and coffee estates in India, D'Souza wanted to do his own research. For now, the beans are sourced from Kelagur (Manjarabad) and Poabs (Nelliyampathy) to Badra (Chikmanglur) and Marvahulla (Nilgiris). "I felt Indian coffee was strongly associated with Coorg, and hence chose lesser-known regions to show the diversity of the beverage," he says.

Each batch of this hand-selected speciality coffee is sampled before being roasted in the Probat Roaster. For now, he and his team are trying to educate people and grow the curated coffee-drinking culture. "Despite many players joining the market, I feel there's enough room for everybody to experiment." He has now collaborated with Foodhall Coffee Lab in Bandra.

Order: Swiggy, Zomato or drop by at the cafe at 6, Chuim Village Road, Chuim Village, Danda, Khar West

'Mumbaikars love milk-based coffee'
Blue Tokai I Whole beans, cold brew, South Indian filter
Founder: Matt Chitharanjan and Namrata Asthana

Back in San Francisco, Matt Chitharanjan, a former economist, took to roasting coffee as a hobby. It helped that he hailed from a family of passionate coffee drinkers. "I lived in San Franciso at a time when the coffee wave had just started, so a lot of coffee roasters were emerging on the scene and were sourcing good quality beans using sustainable techniques," he says. When he moved to Delhi for work, he was met with disappointment.

Matt Chitharanjan
Matt Chitharanjan

"The coffee situation in Delhi was quite bad, because whatever was high quality was being exported and what we were left with was average and low grade," he says. Wife Namrata Asthana and he decided to reverse the situation. Both of them were at that point in their careers, where we wanted to turn entrepreneurs. And thus, Blue Tokai was born in 2012. "We have been investing in new roast profiles, hiring people from Australia who could take us from the level we are at to international standards," he says. End of the day, Chitharanjan says Mumbaikars love milk-based coffee so the lattes and cappuccinos are the highest selling. "But, there are guests who want to go beyond that."

Order: bluetokaicoffee.com

'We're the first company to launch cold brew'
Sleepy Owl I Cold brew in packs and ready-to-prepare kit
Founders: Arman Sood, Ashwajeet Singh, Ajai Thandi

Arman Sood, Ashwajeet Singh and Ajai Thandi started Sleepy Owl in 2016 in Delhi because of rumblings in their gut: "It was a gut instinct," says Thandi. "We had been cold-brewing for many years at home, and understood how to make a cold brew. We started the company because we saw a massive need for high-quality coffee products, [available] at convenience." With two lawyers (Sood and Singh) and one banker (Thandi), their approach to the venture has been as analytical as passionate.

"If you look at the market, it's highly fragmented towards cafes, and connoisseurs who know how to procure the right beans and have the knowledge of brewing. To remove all these complications, we innovated on packaging and product design." Their first product was a brew box, which had a cold brew bag, and came with a nozzle. After initial trials, the trio launched a brew kit. The reusable kit also comes with a nozzle, and six brew packs.

Arman Sood, Ashwajeet Singh and Ajai Thandi
Arman Sood, Ashwajeet Singh and Ajai Thandi

You add water and leave it overnight, and drink as you go; they call it a mini coffee machine. "We're the first company to launch cold brew, so it's quite flattering and encouraging to see more and more players in the market. We have had to build the category, spend a lot of time and effort in educating the consumer. [Because] a cold brew is a great alternative for someone who's working long hours and needs that energy from caffeine."

Order: Website (sleepyowl.co) and modern trade stores

'Each component can be tweaked'
Flying Squirrel I Roasted beans and cold brews
Founder: Ashish D'Abreo

In 2013, when ad man Ashish D'Abreo and Tej Thimmaiah, third generation coffee estate owner, decided to launch The Flying Squirrel in Bangalore, they had no competition to speak of. "This was precisely the reason for us to start," says D'Abreo. As passionate coffee drinkers, their primary grouse was the unavailability of freshly roasted and ground coffee. "What you got in the supermarket was stuff that was grown, roasted en masse many months before you actually got to pick up a pack," he says. The duo, therefore, offer artisanal coffee that is delivered at your doorsteps in less than seven days from the date of roasted, and in most cases, the day after it's been roasted. According to him, roasted coffee is, in fact, a perishable commodity.

Ashish D'Abreo. PIC/Ajeesh Rawther
Ashish D'Abreo. PIC/Ajeesh Rawther

"At least for a true coffee drinker. Its finest aromas and flavours dissipate in a month or two of roasting," he explains. Coffee, being an "exciting" drink, provided ample scope for experimentation. "It has a number of components such as flavour, aroma notes, mouthfeel, body, aftertaste, texture and sweetness. Each of these can be manipulated or accentuated (or not) by the way the coffee is grown, processed, dried and stored," he says. They have over six variants of coffee including Tall Dark Handsome (intense, smoky, creamy espresso), Sunkissed (fruity, citrusy, buttercup) and Cold Brew Blend (berry and chocolate notes with a velvety finish). But why call it a Flying Squirrel? "We were on the farm in Pollibetta in Karnataka, when we were trying to think of a name for the brand. Just then, we spotted these flying squirrels with flaps under their arms, gliding from tree top to tree top. They aren't commonly seen. We knew we'd found the name."

Order: On flyingsquirrel.in

'Every bean holds new flavours'
Dope Coffee I Roasted beans and filter powder
Founder: Rizwan Amlani

For Rizwan Amlani, roasting specialty coffee is about looking into what's best for every individual bean, because "each holds the possibility of unlocking thousands of new flavours". "It's amazing how coffee can go from tasting like nuts and chocolate to bergamot and grapefruit depending on the ways and methods in which it is grown and treated," says Amlani, co-founder at Dope Coffee, who launched the brand last year after returning from New York, where he worked as chef. The Indian market seemed inviting because the consumption of specialty coffee was already experiencing an upswing.

Rizwan Amlani. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Rizwan Amlani. Pic/Bipin Kokate

"To draw a parallel, the coffee scene is where the wine industry was 10 years ago, but what we're seeing now is the scale is tipping towards the new norms. People are up for trying new things, so the future of coffee smelt pretty good to me," he says. He recalls visiting over 80 estates and spending a year getting his hands dirty at the farm level, in order to understand what it takes to make great coffee. While he got the know-how, it was also important to keep the price reasonable in order to reach out to the average coffee. No wonder then that the coffee costs anywhere between R150-R190, while beans start from R345 for a R250 gm packet. "As a roaster, being the person responsible for adding the final artisan touch to the bean before it gets to the customer, is a treat. I roast with the same discipline, passion and dedication as any meal I cooked as a chef."

Order: FLEA Bazaar Cafe at Lower Parel and Versova Social

'Have our cold brew as an espresso shot'
Brew Ex Machina I Cold brew in 180 ml bottle
Founder: Vishal Sainani

Most people like their coffee with milk and sugar. But, for Vishal Sainani, founder of Brew Ex Machina and proprietor of Vishiv Vinyl Industries in Andheri, these mask the brilliance of raw coffee. "I started cold-brewing at home in 2014," he says. "I was just playing with beans and different kinds of brewing techniques. I came across cold-brewing online, and I really enjoyed the low acidity and smoothness of cold brew. Initially, I used to have coffee just like everybody else. But, when I switched to cold brew, I realised there's no need to add sugar." The home project led to the creation of a concentrated cold brew, sold in 180 ml bottles, which is 100 per cent arabica with beans sourced from an estate in Chikmagalur.

Vishal Sainani. Pic/Satej Shinde
Vishal Sainani. Pic/Satej Shinde

"I attended some seminars and crash courses on coffee, and developed a blend with a roaster in Bengaluru, which is my own signature taste. I created a concentrated version so that people like me could play around with the drink and have more options. The possibilities are endless: you can make an espresso martini, add it in desserts, add milk, add cold water or hot water. People can even have our cold brew as an espresso shot, because the potency is that strong." Sainani is currently in the transition period of scaling it up to a biggish company, with placements in supermarkets and on delivery apps. "We've set up a brewery in Andheri. We're in talks with food scientists and process scientists to scale this up, because making 10 litres of cold brew is one thing, and making 500 litres is totally another."

Order: On Facebook or Instagram @brewexmachina

'Nespresso's capsules are priced three times higher than ours'
Fresh Brew Co I Nespresso compatible capsules and cold brews in bottles
Founder: Karan Tibrawalla

A Nespresso machine is a significant investment. Karan Tibrawalla, founder of Fresh Brew Co, is trying to ensure at least its coffee capsules aren't. Tibrawalla, who also works in his family's real estate and infrastructure business, started the company in 2015 because he personally needed Nespresso compatible capsules.

Cold Brew Coffee

"Because I was the user of these coffee capsules and there was no availability, I started making for myself, and I realised there are a lot more people in the same boat." By his estimation, there are about 50,000 Nespresso owners in the country, along with hotels such as the Oberoi, Park Hyatt and Westin.

"They have the machine in most of their rooms in properties across the country. They do have the means to source the original capsules, but there's a gap in the supply chain, in the quality of freshness and the price point. Their [Nespresso] prices are three times more than ours." Tibrawalla offers 12 variants in the capsules and three kinds of cold brews (all-black, vanilla and hazelnut, which come in ready-to-drink 200 ml bottles).

Karan Tibrawalla
Karan Tibrawalla

Of the capsules, he says, "Six are single estate, 100 per cent arabica, Indian coffees, sourced from Coorg, Chikmagalur, Ooty and the Nilgiri hills. Three coffees are from Colombia, Ethiopia and Sumatra respectively. We also have hazelnut- and vanilla-flavoured coffee, and a decaf." Tibrawalla has personally selected the beans and the blends. "I was very sensitive to the coffee: from selecting the coffee beans to selecting a good roast profile."

Order: On the website (www.freshbrewco.in) and FoodHall

'The bean is so sweet you can actually eat it'
Yellow Bohemian coffee I Whole roasted beans, coarsely ground filter powder and instant powder
Founder: Suchitra Ayappa

Furniture designer Suchitra Ayappa has coffee in her blood. A fifth-generation planter, her family has been running a coffee estate in Coorg since 1932. "I got involved in the business four years ago, when I decided to take it up and create a niche," she says. Although, her business model is a lot different from her forefathers; hers is a farm-to-table product. "In the 1930s, there was a consolidated agency that would take all the coffee from the farmers in Coorg area. People like the Tatas and other big companies would procure it at auctions. I created my own roast, using only arabica beans, which I'm marketing under The Yellow Bohemian."

Suchitra Ayappa
Suchitra Ayappa

Most coffee estates in Coorg, including her family's, sell blends of robusta and arabica. "But, I use only triple-A arabica, which is the best quality. I have a liaison with my cousin who has these German Probat roasters, and I roast the coffee in the way I like it to be done. That is what differentiates my coffee from what my dad has been selling for the last 50-odd years." Rahul Bajaj, owner of Deli by the Blue, who stocks the coffee, testifies, "The bean is so sweet, you can actually eat it."

Order: Deli by the Blue in Khar; The Village Shop and Farmers' Cafe in Bandra

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