It’s almost a rarity to find a person in India whose morning doesn’t begin with a cup of tea or coffee. This comes as no surprise, given the vast history of India brewed over between these two elixirs in their own right. We largely owe our inheritance of tea to the British and their colonial obsession of it. History suggests that they brought tea into India to take away the monopoly from the Chinese. In fact, they were so determined in their effort to do so that went as far as to suggest that tea was the cure for Indian alcoholism! While tea finds its stronghold more so in the north, coffee is the true hero of the south. There is a slight blue when it comes to stories that suggest how coffee came to India - some say it was Baba Budan, a saint, who smuggled seven beans of coffee from Yemen and brought them to Chikmagalur, which is where coffee plantations started in the south.
Indian tea and coffee has been considered to be superior enough to carve a niche out for us on the global map of demand and supply. Unfortunately, a large part of tea and coffee production is exported, as most people feel the domestic market simply does not value or understand the product the way the European market does. This is where the companies we’re about to profile come in. Companies that strive to bring high quality produce to the Indian people itself - why shouldn’t we have what’s grown on our land, after all? These 17 companies all hold this philosophy at the core of what we do. Scroll on for a hint of where to get some of India’s best coffee and tea today.
I. Black Baza
Arshiya Urveeja Bose’s Black Baza was started with the vision of creating a coffee company that sells good quality coffee while simultaneously practicing certain methods that supports the biodiversity, and helps those working behind its production earn a sustainable livelihood. An environmental conservationist, she decided to pursue her PhD in Sustainable Coffee Production from the University of Cambridge where she began interacting with local producers while researching them. This research helped her form many informed conclusions about the history of coffee production in India, including the environmental benefits of shade-grown coffee.
It was the producers themselves, who suggested that they would adopt these sustainable methods of farming, if she would market their produce. Thus, the brand came into being, with the hopes of setting a benchmark, worldwide, for how coffee should be grown. The passionate environmental conservationist does not mark the success of her company in terms of her profit, but on the basis of the environmental returns, and improvement of the producer’s and worker’s livelihood so if you’d like to drink a guiltless cup of coffee in the morning, this is probably one of your best bets.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: They promote coffee under three names–Black Baza Roast, Luna Roast and Aspire to Otter–all flagship species they wish to help conserve. Honestly, we’d like to save them all.
II. Blue Tokai
Blue Tokai was started by Namrata Asthana and Matt Chitharanjan simply because they wanted better coffee to drink themselves. When they saw that the number of local coffee houses offering freshly ground coffee was close to non-existent for consumers, they decided to do some digging about the Indian coffee industry. They worked on the logistics for months, dividing their time convincing producers to sell their produce to them and coming up with a brand image. Ultimately, with the goal of promoting single estate Arabica beans sourced from India’s various coffee estates, they set up an online store by which they could deliver freshly roasted beans directly to their subscribers. These beans are roasted using a system that profiles each roast from the start to the finish, and sent out within 24 hours. They’re also ground, according to the customer’s needs, depending on the type of apparatus they use.
Arabica coffee beans in particular, are believed to be the highest quality beans in the world and we’re lucky to find them in abundance in our own country. To Blue Tokai, it is important that their customers know where the coffee they are drinking comes from, which is why each pack contains the name of the farm the beans have been sourced from,
HG’s Brew Of Choice: You can choose from their collections, depending on the kind of tones you generally enjoy in your coffee. The Arabica beans that have been sourced from Attikan estate with its nutty, cherry flavour is as good a place to start as any.
III. Halli Berri
Co-run by the three Kariappa sisters – Anusha, Tejini,and Manavi, Halli Berri was an idea that came to them while they were chatting over a cup of coffee. Having grown up surrounded by nature and wildlife, the nuances of running a plantation was something that had been ingrained in them at a very young age through practical, on-field experience. Until about 3 years ago, the coffee from their estate used to be sold in the open wholesale market. When they realised how many travellers wanted to take some of their produce back with them, they decided to take the retail route instead.
They are a Rainforest Alliance certified brand working tirelessly towards changing the consumer’s mindset around Indian Coffee. With Halli Berri, they wish to provide their consumer with a quality cup of delicious coffee, while still promoting sustainable farming and the Indian Coffee community. They also run the Halli Berri Cottages, a getaway spot bordering the Baba Budan Forest range, so if you’re up for it, drinking a mug of their finest ground beans surrounded by greenery will be an experience of a lifetime.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: They have only a single variant, and believe us, that is all you need.
IV. Closed Kaffa
Kaffa Cerrado was set up by Krittivas Dalmia with the aim of providing high quality, single origin coffee beans, sourced from plantations all over the world. This brand of coffee is his passion project that he started post returning to India after graduating from The Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University. It has just been two years, but he believes people are appreciative towards his brand’s supplies because of the satisfaction they get from drinking the coffee brewed from their beans.
The unique flavours and aroma for each available variant stems from the fact that each coffee growing region offers distinct tasting notes due to the environmental factors, geographic locations and type of plantations. If you are someone who enjoys trying new brews, then you are going to love Kaffa Cerrado. They source their range of coffees from 12 different countries, including India, making sure there is always something exciting for your java-loving taste buds.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: While the ‘Mysore Nuggets Extra Bold’ sourced from India with its toffee caramel notes and the mild aftertaste of lemon is quite heavenly, we recommend the slightly nutty, mellow ‘Columbia Supremo.’
Seven Beans Coffee Company is the brainchild of the two brothers, Abhijit and Advith Shetty. Their family has been owners of over 2,000-acres of coffee plantations for over 100 years but for years they simply exported their produce. The brothers made the decision of taking the business forward and changing the perception that the highest grade produce wasn’t meant for the domestic market. It was at this time that they met Dante Cagliari, an Italian roastmaster, who not only taught Abhijit the art of roasting, but also work with them. Together, they decided to launch Seven Beans Coffee Company, where they could sell high quality blends that had been created by the roastmaster, himself.They maintain control in every stage of production– growing, cultivating, roasting, grinding and packaging– making sure the quality of their product is never compromised.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: If you like our coffee strong, what you need is a cup of ‘Urja’ that has an aroma of Robusta that transforms into that of Arabica beans once you add sugar.
VI. The Indian Bean
When Kunal Ross realised that it was nearly impossible to get a good cup of coffee, unless you personally knew a farmer, he realised he needed to do something about it. He quit his job at an advertising agency and decided to combine his passion for farming and coffee together, to make a living. He knew there was a huge void in the market in terms of what coffee-drinkers really wanted and what was available to them and even though he wasn’t sure to what extent the gap was, he decided to take the plunge. Thus, on October 2013, The Indian Bean, an online company through which he could sell unblended coffee that had been sourced from individual estates, was born.
Since most coffee drinkers are explorers, even if they do prefer one brand, they’re always up for trying something new, so they aim to provide as much variety as they can for the Indian palate. At present, they sell only a few types of brews–Appa’s, Frowners, Watapi, Monkey Bitten, Malnad and 5,000 ft.–each distinct in their flavour and story.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Sourced from the B.R. Hills in Karnataka (the same plantation that inspired Ross to start theindianbean.com), the coffee brewed from the Watapi seeds is light, slightly bitter and leaves a fresh, fruity aftertaste–exactly what you need to start your day on a good note.
Koinonia, meaning ‘Community’ in Greek, is an effort to create a community around the ritualistic consumption of coffee. Right from the farmers who grow the beans, to the roasting, extraction (the act of turning ground coffee into a beverage) and finally the consumption - their philosophy is vertically integrated to bring most of these elements into the same hands, so to speak. Started by Siddharth, Clement and Shannon, their motive was to give a consumer a good, clean cup of coffee from farmers they knew and trusted, at a completely affordable price. After all, you shouldn’t have to pay so much for a cup of something as essential to life as coffee. For more information, read our feature on these guys here.
I. Chai Daries
The birth of Chai Diaries came about as a result of one of Ami Bansali’s first “awakenings” in India. Growing up in the fast-paced city of Mumbai, the favourite parts of her childhood were when she would visit her grandfather’s tea gardens in the Nilgiri Mountains. As she grew up, her love for the serenity and peace that the place brought with it, only intensified. After spending several years travelling within the country, she realised she wanted to create a sustainable business that upheld and demonstrated the values of “self-realization through daily activities”, a concept that fosters individual consciousness and profitable capitalism.
With a motto of “Discover yourself, discover your purpose, discover peace”, Chai Diaries was set up to provide their customers with pure teas. For Ms. Bhansali, the company is more than just a simple cup of tea. It is about taking time to find balance, connecting with not just your friends but also with yourself. Currently, they offer over 45 master blends, all organic, natural high-quality range of teas directly sourced from the grower.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Their Ayurvedic Om blend for its calming nature and beautiful flavours.
II. Dancing Leaf
It was after Nandini Mehta started travelling abroad and became acquainted with the varieties of tea and caffeinated drinks that she realised that there was a scarcity of genuine tea brands in India. In the hopes of bridging this gap, she started Dancing Leaf, a platform that sells fresh tea leaves as well as tea wares, such as tea infusers, cast iron teapots and travel tumblers.
They source their ingredients from all over the world just to ensure that all their products are made from premium quality goods. They also stay away from all sorts of essences and synthetic flavours, and stick to using the actual product to render pure flavour to their blends.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Their fennel infusion tea, which is a combination of fennel, star anise and liquorice.
A passionate tea drinker herself, Exalte was conceptualised and kicked off by Shivani Chakravarthy so that she could let this tea-drinking nation experience what the taste of a good, unadulterated cup of tea was really like. Her dream was, and continues to be, to help people enjoy the variants in tea blends that can be sourced from all over the country, and also make them understand that you don’t need to add copious amounts of milk and sugar to enjoy the taste of a good brew.
She believes that one should respect the leaves that have been so painstakingly grown and plucked, which is why the brand does not sell tea bags at all. They have a wide range of black, green and white teas, all sourced from estates around the country, and are committed to natural flavours, something which is easy to pick up on each one of their blends.
HG’s Blend of Choice: If you were to browse through their range of tea products, you will be really confused as to which one to choose because they all look extremely alluring. But, if you’re someone who likes to end their day with a hot cup of tea, their ‘Ayurvedic Anti Stress Tea’ is the one you’ve been looking for all your life.
IV. Gardner Street
Rashi Sanghvi started drinking tea as a method to keep herself warm when she moved to Boston to pursue her MBA. When she realised she quite enjoyed the drink, she began exploring her options and found many she liked. However, when she returned to India she found it next to impossible to find a brand that offered good quality tea. Around the same time, she happened to take a trip to Turkey, where she visited the tea market and came across variants of tea blends all made using natural ingredients and high quality leaves. When she returned to India, she decided to do something that would make tasty, high-quality green and herbal teas available to the people.
With the sole intention of changing the perception that green tea tastes horrible, she has carefully designed all her blends using whole leaves and completely natural ingredients.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Give us a chilled glass of their Moroccan Mint Cooler any day.
V. Goodwyn Tea
Goodwyn Tea was created as a platform through which the company could sell the tea leaves that they produced at their 9000-acre estate in Assam, while simultaneously helping to create a sustainable life for the workers at the plantation. Through this endeavour, they hope to bridge the gap between the 6000 tea-makers who work tirelessly, and the consumers who satiate their needs with every cup brewed from these very leaves. They deal in only single origin teas of high quality, which means that every customer is aware of exactly where their daily drink is coming from.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Every drink can take a step back. The tea drinkers at this office know to appreciate a cup of some authentic single origin high grown Assam tea.
VI . Jugmug Thela
An avid chai lover, Jiten Suchede was never fond of the kind of coffee that was available in the country. In 2008, he took an Around The World trip and this was when he enjoyed his first ever cup of quality coffee. Soon after, he started JugmugThela, a pop-up cafe to provide people an alfresco space where they could grab some great coffee and tea. When the customers themselves started asking for tea leaves and coffee beans so that they could make the same at home, he realized the potential of starting a real store for his coffees and teas and the rest, as they say, is history.
With their store, they hope to help their customers discover the particular way in which they enjoyed their daily cup of tea/ coffee.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Their ‘Artisan 12 spices chai masala’ that will add a burst to flavours to a simple cup of chai.
VII. LaPlant Tea
LaPlant was born out the two co-founders’ own need for a great green tea range at an affordable price. Tired of the black tea makers trying the ‘we also make green tea’ game, they decided to design a product catering to a highly health conscious middle class Indian consumer and claim the “Green Tea expert” brand space.
They have made a green tea range that they continue to innovate on in terms of flavours and blends, because the owners themselves love green tea and believe in its goodness.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Their Tulsi Green Tea and Lemon Green tea for its light, refreshing flavours.
VIII. San-cha Tea
In 1981, Mr. Sanjay Kapur set up the first tea tasting boutique in Delhi so that people could simply taste the various varieties and decide what suited their palate best. Since, he has opened up branches in Chanakyapuri, Delhi, Crosspoint Mall Gurgaon and Kalaghoda, Mumbai. Mr. Kapur has spent years researching into the soil, climate, terroir and rainfall to the extent that, now you can mark out areas in tea plantations, which exude exotic flavours with natural characters like grassy, woody, flowery, floral and muscatel notes.
The brand painstakingly assesses and have professionals carefully select the best leaves from amongst hundreds of batches of tea produced in the country every week. Their tea boutiques have professionally trained tea sommeliers to assist and guide you in making your own choice of tea after tasting the many varieties that are available.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: We could gulp down a cup of their white tea at just about any time.
Kaushal Dugar, Singapore-trained financial analyst, started the initiative of Teabox in 2012 after returning to India with the idea of bringing back the true essence of tea, to India. With Accel Partners, one of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capital firms, backing them, the online tea retail store was started up.
They carefully source their leaves from the estates in Darjeeling and Assam and create the unique blends that customers will enjoy. Each story of each tea, from its origin to packaging , is listed on their website, giving each blend a unique identity.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: Even though Mumbai doesn’t really have winters, we love their Winter Spice Chai for its warm aroma of toasted sweet almonds and spicy ginger that can make the pleasant monsoons morning even better.
X. Tea Trunk
Snigdha Manchanda’s decision to start Tea Trunk can be traced back to her childhood when she would collect tea samples from all over the world and store them inside her father’s trunk. It was this same love that motivated her to go to Sri Lanka, where she could learn about tea, professionally. When she returned to the country as a tea connoisseur, she decided to start her own brand where she could sell tea that had been sourced locally from within India itself.
It is not just their packaging that conjures up a playful, exciting aura. If you were to open up the packet and brew yourself a cup, you’re likely to fall in love with subtle hints of flowers or fruits (depending on which one you choose) and the light, refreshing tone of the drinks. You will find some really out-of-the-box blends here like her Chilli Chai, Saffron Kawha Green Tea, Berry Blush Green Tea, Moon White Tea, and so many more.
HG’s Brew Of Choice: You can begin your day or end a meal with a hot cup of ‘Marigold Green Tea’ with a hint of the refreshing marigold and lemongrass flavour. Designed to soothe your stomach and make you feel at ease.
Feature Image Credit: Blue Tokai
If you liked this article we suggest you read: