Has The Land Of Chai Finally Adopted The Artisanal Coffee Bean?
Over many, many gourmet cups, Sonali Shah discovers a niche world abuzz
How do your Sunday mornings begin? We hope not with dalgona, because if you enjoy a bit of caffeine in your mug, wonderful experiences await you. Freshly ground beans, cold brews, vitamin-infused shots, and the most sophisticated range of pressing equipment are now just a few clicks away for passionate home-brewers. Manual mills, semi-automatics or coffee grounds poured out of a test tube? The options are suddenly too many. From the hilly regions in the south to the far- flung villages of the northeast, coffee-growers are spoiling you for choice. Connoisseurs who scoff at the idea of a good domestic cuppa coffee will have to eat their words. Or, how should we put it, drink their coffee?
Our visits to coffee shops came to a grinding halt since last year, but if our Instagram feeds are anything to go by, everyone’s now a barista. Indian brands have been steadily stepping up their game, and niche ones such as Black Baza Coffee, Blue Tokai, KCROASTERS by Koinonia, and Ainmané Coffee have taken over social media. New- age brands with their 30-something founders have invested not just into local farms (for the coffee beans), but also into developing a culture around coffee that goes beyond cappuccinos. These brands are encouraging experimentation and it’s a win-win for all. ‘Cask-aged’ is not a term exclusive to wine anymore, ‘roastery’ has entered our everyday lexicon, and unless it’s poured out of a ‘V60 dripper’, is it even real coffee?
There’s greater awareness about how to enjoy a good cuppa coffee, whether it’s the choice of beans, dominant flavours, steeping methods or brewing equipment. Subko Coffee has medium roast varieties from the Garo hills of Meghalaya. One with notes of peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich, another with dark chocolate covered strawberries and cinnamon. Yes, we’re still talking coffees here. Malaysian civet coffee is globally one of the most expensive. But thanks to Ainmané, you don’t have to break the bank if you’d like to have one. Civets in Coorg, Karnataka, pick the best cherries, and the processed result is Ainmané’s woody and acidic, medium roast.
At Blue Tokai roasteries in Mumbai and New Delhi, large windows offer a welcome peek into the process of the actual roasting of the coffee beans. Closer home though, cold brews that need over-night steeping emerged as the crowd favourites last year, and Sleepy Owl led the charge. You drop its cold brew filter bag into a jar of water and leave it in the fridge overnight. And as you dream, your coffee is luxuriously steeping. But everyday coffee isn’t always a leisurely affair for most of us, and Rage Coffee’s founder Bharat Sethi decided we need an extra kick out of our on- the-go cups. He came up with small- batch crystallised coffee, infused with six plant-based vitamins. They work with caffeine, bringing in a distinctive kick that feels and tastes like freshly grounded coffee.
Amid all the caffeine talk is The Switch Fix, a community-conscious self-care brand. It recently collaborated with Blue Tokai to gather the remains of coffee grounds, combine them with plant-based oils and butters, and create body scrubs. This arrangement checks all the ecologically-important parameters— it’s vegan, non-toxic, non-polluting and cruelty-free. At Rage too, they’re keen on eco-sustainability. Its coffee- shot tubes are made from PET material which is biodegradable in landfills. In fact, customers are encouraged to send across their empty tubes to the Rage warehouse; the company undertakes regular trips to composting pits, so the returned tubes meet a good end.
Staunch lovers of homegrown brands are familiar with the journey of their coffee beans and plantations are no longer in the background. Brands such as Araku Coffee and Kalli Berri promote their estates on social media, and consumers enjoy the connect. SLAY-X, one of the strongest coffees around with 2,250mg of caffeine per 100gm, uses artsy packaging to appeal to the woke Gen Z audience. Depending on how much you’re willing to invest in your coffee routine, the easily available options are mindboggling. Whether you’ve set your eyes on a manual drip- brewer, fancy organic cotton filters, or a mini mill-grinder, chances are your favourite brands sell them. Hosting an impressive range of options is SomethingsBrewing.in, whose CEO Abhinav Mathur says, “There’s a rising trend of setting up coffee stations at home, and people love sharing their latte art on Instagram. Serious coffee-lovers routinely have queries about the maintenance of their coffee machines and other gear, and we guide them.”
One of our favourite discoveries has been the subscription service offered by Gurugram-based Sixteen Grams. You can check out your ‘coffee match’ by taking a quiz, and the algorithm then recommends which coffees you’re likely to enjoy. Once or twice a month, you receive a box with coffees from different roasteries across the country. Now what was that about a match made in heaven?