The 7 Vanguards Of India’s Artisanal Coffee Revolution

The 7 Vanguards Of India’s Artisanal Coffee Revolution
Black Baza Coffee

The coffee culture is wrot with either guilt or pretentiousness. We’re constantly chiding ourselves for being unproductive until we’ve had our morning cup or gleefully comparing our coffee intake to our colleagues, as if the more one drinks, the harder one works.

Regular coffee drinkers also indulge in secret judgment of frappuccino fiends who like their caffeine with copious amounts of cream and sugar. Even the most casual butter chicken eater will have a comment on the dish’s creaminess; but I’ve noticed that only regular coffee drinkers hold discuss flavours and blends, a conversation that almost always reeks of pretentiousness and superiority. But, why?

When coffee plantations began thriving, coffee houses became the hub of creative exchange. The dialogue often heard in these spaces focused on art, culture, history, literature, and religion— conversations sparked by a supply of newspapers, pamphlets, and other reading material accessible by only the rich, elite, and educated.

Anupam Arunachalam, narrating the history of coffee in India, says that at coffee houses or cafes, leaders of the European Enlightenment traded ideas, traders and financiers met to strike lucrative deals, and academics talked with each other about everything else. When coffee first made its way to India, it was only traded as a colonial export because “the parochial Brahmin community vehemently opposed it as an alien beverage, seducing their women and westernising their culture,” Anupam says.

One would assume that with the popularity of Starbucks, coffee is becoming accessible to more sections of the Indian market— but a look at the price list tells a different story. The Starbucks phenomenon is a reflection of the history of coffee in India, a beverage bogged down by elitism, accessible only to the most privileged sections of society, and that champions western flavours. However, a brewing paradigm shift has overtaken the country.

Artisanal coffee blends are not a hipster trend; they are a celebration and rediscovery of regional flavours that are quintessentially Indian from their sourcing to their packaging. The third wave of coffee is a sacred space, one that wants to make coffee accessible financially and tailored to Indian palettes. To understand how the Indian coffee landscape is taking shape, we must deep dive into the lives of the seven vanguards at the forefront of this revolution.

“Freshly roasted coffee sourced from the best farms in the country, delivered straight to your door.”

If Blue Tokai’s handpicked selection of roasted coffee is not in your online shopping cart, we don’t know what is. That’s right this roasted coffee supplier has created an online shopping experience, which means you can have this artisanal brew delivered right to your doorstep. The premium beans they provide are roasted using a system that profiles each and every bean from start to finish.

Moreover, they specialise in Arabica beans sourced from various coffee estates from all across the country. Their aim is to promote these gorgeous beans that are considered the highest quality in the world, but have been largely ignored in India.

This brewery is trying to shift India’s image as tea drinkers by providing an exquisite experience that is convenient and easily accessible. It was started by Namrata Asthana and Matt Chitharanjan after they realised that their country lacked local coffee houses that provided freshly ground coffee.

With that in mind, they embarked on their own fair share of research and spent years creating a premium brand image. Their service is something special as they tailor each roast to the customer’s requirements. We didn’t think twice to hit the subscribe button, and you shouldn’t either.

HG’s brew of choice: A good place to start would undoubtedly be the Arabica beans sourced from the Attikan estate with its nutty, cherry flavour.

Pulak Bhatnagar via Blue Tokai

“Experience Italy in a cup of India’s finest”

This venture is the brainchild of two brothers, Abhijit and Advith Shetty, and their company has outdone all efforts to bring the third wave of coffee making to India that too with a special Italian twist. Started last year, this brewery was incepted with the intention of bringing India into the race of highest coffee consumers.

Civil engineers by profession, these brothers are part of a family that already owned over a 2,000 acres of coffee plantation land, however, the fresh beans were exported to Europe under different brand names, and thus, the brothers realised that no one knew India was already in the race of premium coffee production.

They began exploiting their engineering skills for all the right reasons, to develop a company that would craft an exclusive experience for the Indian consumers. At the same time, they met Italian roastmaster Dante Cagliari, who not only showed them the art of coffee roasting but began working with their new label as well.

With this twist of fate, the company started mixing Italian blends from Modena in their roasts, and as of today, the label has its premium roastery situated in Chikmagalur, Karnataka. Although, most of them are exported abroad, they are easily available in restaurants, online and gourmet stores. Not only that, but the label is also offering barista training to their customers and offering an experience that lasts far longer than your cup of steaming, delicious coffee.

HG’s brew of choice: For those who like their coffee strong, a cup of ‘Urja’ that has an aroma of Robusta should be your perfect fix.

“From our family to yours.”

Right next door to the Seven Beans Coffee Company (SBCC) in Chikmagalur, the coffee masters Halli Berri also stemmed out from a family business, co-owned by the three Kariappa sisters – Anusha, Tejini and Manavi. Alike SBCC, Halli Berri doesn’t only gift its customers with premium coffee beans, but it gives coffee lovers a holiday at their cottages around their high-class roastery.

If we have you curious about the third wave of coffee making, then it is about time you to rent out a cozy spot in Halli Berri cottages. Not only is this farm exceptionally beautiful, but it also allows you to relax with a cup of pure Arabica coffee, while facing the breathtaking green Baba Budan Forest.

This new age resort gives you a taste of sustainable farming, while taking you through the roastery. Moreover, their coffee is Rainforest Alliance Certified. Mixing up family traditions that are decades old with sustainable nurturing of the crop, Halli Berri has mastered everything this third wave of coffee making stands for. If you are looking for the perfect getaway near the mountains with your loved ones, this should be your next investment. Oh, and did we mention that your cottage may overlook the beautiful western ghats?

HG’s brew of choice: The farm is 100% Arabica and you won’t need anything more after trying this.

The Indian Bean
The Indian Bean

“Explore India with our coffee.”

With a mix of rich and complex flavours, The Indian Bean was born to create a market of coffee lovers that would enjoy the exploration of coffee sourced from individual states across the country. To make all of this happen, Kunal Ross quit his agency life and decided to create The Indian Bean as a virtual reality.

As of October 2013, the company has been brewing an online platform that delivers fresh coffee beans to your doorstep. These beans are not brought together by any ordinary plantation, Ross and his team spent months of research exploring Nepal and the hidden hills of Kodagu and Kodi. With that, they currently curate brews of various flavours - Appa’s, Frowners, Watapi, Monkey Bittin and Malnad being the popular favourites.

HG’s brew of choice: A great start to fill your shopping cart would be a 250 grams packet of Watapi beans. Sourced from the B.R. Hills of Karnataka, these beans are known for its aromatic fragrance. Moreover, it is clean and sweet with a slight acidic aftertaste with fruity notes.

“... micro-lot, ‘handcrafted’, and taken through some uniquely creative, natural process to make it taste and smell exactly the way it does.”

By now you may have guessed that the best of the best coffee artisans are brewing their experience in Southern India -- Flying Squirrel is no exception. Growing, roasting, grinding and delivering coffee in an artisanal format is the true motto of this brewing company.

What stemmed out of a long conversation between Ashish and his college friend Tej Themmiah, Flying Squirrel became a grand estate in Coorg filled with freshly roasted whole beans.

These beans have the third wave premium quality as they are grown between the citrus and spice patches and also in amidst breathtaking vanilla plantations. What heavily influences the quality of the product is also the time spent on the plant before harvest.

Catering straight to its consumers, one gets to avail the opportunity to decide the amount of ripeness they would like in their cherries. Whether pulped, semi-pulped, mildly fermented, sun-dried on brick yards, either whole or washed -- all orders are tailored to your wishes.

HG’s brew of choice: There is probably nothing better than a party pack, and Flying Squirrel’s six flavour packs offer the same kind of goodness. The 6-pack taster includes Parama, Sunkissed, Sattva, Deep Bliss, Aromatique, Café Chic for Rs 540.

“... creating a local, participatory and meaningful movement for coffee”

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.

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.