Denmark-based Fritz Storm, a barista champion, was on a four-city tour of the country to launch a new cappuccino flavour for Magnum ice cream along with chocolatier Jancie Wong. The trail covered coffee, chocolate and food pairings, and Storms signature brews that he whips up like a flair bartender. Storm is down to tap into the coffee buzz that is percolating around the country into little artsy cafes, theatre and performance spaces as well as busy street corners.
“When it comes to coffee, many of us are creatures of habit. Flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes are still the most popular choices, but it seems an increasing number of people want something different from their morning brew—a dash of flavoured syrup or even loads of sugar, but that’s often because the coffee they drink isn’t very tasty. If you give people good coffee they don’t need those extras,” he begins. Storm feels that coffee culture in India is expanding into “bigger, feature communal tables, barista workshops around the counter and engaging coffee shop experience as well.” Greener design and ethical sourcing will also take centre stage, as people are becoming fussy about the sustainable origin of their beans to having their own branded, reusable take-away cup.
“Personally, nothing beats a good espresso, but I tend to knock it back and think, ‘Wow, that was over quickly,’ but if you’re a regular cream and sugar person, you may want to consider switching up your routine and add cinnamon, instead,” he advises.
At your service
If you find it hard to step away from your desk to the vending machine down the hallway, or the street corner cafe, just launched DropKaffe might be handy. Billing themselves as India’s first comprehensive online coffee delivery service, it is helmed by three coffee obsessives Chaitanya Chitta, Lakshmi Dasaka and Rakshit Kejriwal who moved from NYC to Bangalore on the start up trail. “Coffee keeps us fueled up at work. But we could not find anyone to deliver it, at exactly the right temperature and blend. We even tried hiring a runner to pick up our brews but that was not practical either. So we launched Drop Kaffe,” explains Dasaka. The service enables customers to choose a coffee online (filter, latte or americano), and their preferred delivery time and have it arrive piping hot at their desk, or bedside table even. “We found that we could get everything from laundry to food and medical services, online but never coffee, the most consumed beverage after water,” says Kejriwal. Figuring that many coffee buffs in town had equally limited options-— a flimsy cup from the vending machine or a lukewarm mug in the cafeteria, they launched their service, importing suitable takeway cups from America and putting the logistics of brewing and delivery in place. “We have already served several hundreds of free coffees to our customers since we started last week!”
Subscribing to taste
When Matt and Namrata Chittranjan moved to Delhi from Chennai in 2012, they missed the local roasting shops they frequented that enabled them to produce a drinkable cup of coffee. “In Delhi, our options were limited to pre-ground mass produced coffee or overpriced, imported beans that were roasted months ago,” says Matt. The couple explored ‘numerous
coffee estates, discovering and interacting with a close knit, yet vibrant industry that was eager to get its coffees out in to the market.” But as the intricacies of getting top quality fresh coffees to people across the country and overseas can be complex, they came up with a subscription coffee format. “In short, it means we cater to a whole genre of drinkers who were increasingly becoming more fascinated with where their coffee actually comes from. We source the best beans we can find and ensure that they are roasted and delivered in 24 hours to keep the freshness,” says Matt, adding, “We found that the actual roasting process is crucial when crafting the perfect cup of joe. And we like to showcase how our coffee is made — from the raw green beans all the way into your cup. We are obviously biased and think that the growers we work with have the best coffee but one farm that we don’t work with, Sethuraman Estates, is very interesting. They have a fine Speciality Robusta coffee, though robusta is avoided by most speciality coffee people, and for good reason as it often tastes terrible and is limited to instant brews. Figuring that there were many others like us who would enjoy a good cup of freshly roasted coffee, we started Blue Tokai Coffee. Our mission is simple: introduce our customers to the estates we buy our great tasting coffees from, roast the beans order by order, and ship them out to customers immediately. The coffee we roast is the coffee we like to drink.” Details: bluetokaicoffee.com
The filter Specialists
All that fuss about roast , level of grind, technique and expensive equipment goes out of the window when it comes down to cup of fragrant South Indian filter coffee that even coffee snobs are sneakily fascinated by. Mahendar US founded Haati Kaapi a year ago, creating a brand that is recognisable for its wallet friendly brews and is present across the city in over 40 outlets as well as major metropolitan airports. Haati Kaapi dispenses around 60,000 cups of filter coffee daily and are taking the brand up North to win over tea drinkers and may soon set up shop overseas. Subodh Shankar and Lalitha Lakshmi founders of Atta Galata a bookstore-cum-performance space take their pure filter coffee very seriously brewing it out of Lakshmi’s family heirloom brass filter contraption. “The hot brew we are used to is about smell as much as taste. The hot water — and fresh roasting gives it the aroma,” says Lakshmi. “But once it goes into the standard two cylinder coffee filter the whole process slows down. The holes at the bottom of the upper cylinder are just pin pricks, allowing only the smallest of drops through. Western coffee filters use a medium grind so the water goes through fast, but South Indian filter coffee is finely ground so the water stays in contact longer,” adds Mahendar.
First timers in Chennai must try South Indian filter coffee, so popular, that many households around the Kapaleeshwara temple in Mylapore, have perfected a distinctly unique flavour of their own. But even in Chennai, busier households prefer to leave their decoction to experts like Anush Narayanan. Working with coffee estates since 1998, he sells two variants of decoction — one Arabica variant with 10 per cent chicory and a newer Arabica and Robusta variant with 20 per cent chicory — under the brand names Kaaveri Coffee and Southern Aroma. Retailing through chains like Nilgiris and Kovai Pazhamudir Nilayam, Narayanan also retails roasted beans for those with cappuccino machines at home.
V Balaji delivers decoction to nearly 600 homes across Chennai. Besides a 100 per cent coffee decoction (with beans sourced from Chickmagalur), he offers a 15 per cent chicory version preferred by homes and has introduced a 25 per cent chicory version that he supplies to canteens, restaurants, and commercial coffee makers. His outlets, in Teynampet and Alwarpet, have people lining up for the decoction, and the coffee powder residue that many customers take home to use as manure.
Chennai is also home to Dimitri Klein, a hotelier whose eco-friendly, boutique properties in Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Kochi and Kodaikanal have made their way into many a travel journal. At Elephant Valley, located near Kodaikanal, Klein has a 16-acre plantation where he grows IMO certified organic coffee (Arabica). Besides supplying to a few restaurants in Bangalore, his Elephant Valley Coffee, that borrows a mild hint of chocolate from the forests where it is grown, is exclusively available to customers and guests who visit
his properties. Marc Tormo, another expat coffee expert from Auroville, Pondicherry, has been consulting for top cafes like Amethyst, Chamiers and The Brew Room since 2000. Originally a cafe owner in Barcelona, he is now a barista and roaster, who has opened three cafes in Auroville and sells four coffee blends (using different varieties of Arabica and Robusta), two single estate coffees and a speciality coffee, all available online (auroville.com) and at Naturally Auroville in Chennai.
Inputs: Ryan Peppin
Pics: Nagesh Polali and Jithendra M