Coffee is evocative; the aroma of the roasted beans, the familiar clatter of coffee being made, and of course, the distinct flavour and texture of a good brew can stir so much within a person. Coffee in its many varied forms - from decoction that is slowly made in a South Indian filter and stored in a flask at 5 AM by loving mothers to a bitter concoction hastily grabbed in a to-go cup from a nondescript cafe with a punny name - is an inextricable part of life for so many of us.
For Raghunath Rajaram and Namisha Parthasarathy, the husband-wife duo who founded Aramse, Coffee has been an indispensable part of their life. As two coffee lovers living in East London — the centre of artisanal coffee, they had access to some of the best coffee in the world. Within a span of 2 miles. Raghunath, who grew up drinking milky, sugary coffee in Bangalore tasted his first cup of exceptional coffee here and was hooked ever since. But Namisha who was a trader, and Raghunath who is a designer wanted to get away from the constant rush of their life and took a month-long yoga retreat in Mysore in 2019. They continued to travel across India and realised that they wanted to move back here and ended up making a home for themselves in Mysore.
Ritualising The Act Of Making Coffee
While they were from vastly different fields, they had always talked about starting something together and threw around ideas surrounding things that they both loved. Namisha had also gifted Raghunath with a course from the Speciality Coffee Association’s Course (a non-profit that set the guidelines of Speciality Coffee Standards on a global scale) and embarked on a journey of discovery and learning ever since. Namisha has always been a coffee drinker and so it’s always been there. During a trip they had taken to South America, they spent a long time trying to find good coffee to drink and great cafes to hang out in and realised that coffee was a unifying factor that they could focus on. But what Aramse was when they started in 2020 vs. where they are today is vastly different, owing to COVID and everything that followed it.
According to Namisha, when they set out to start Aramse, they were trying to see how one could take a simple process of brewing coffee and make it into something that is a delightful activity to people, rather than letting it be something peripheral to your day. She went on to say, “Even for 10 minutes, the act of brewing can become a focal point of your day and you derive joy from it. So to answer the question of where we started - we started doing in-person workshops in Mysore. It was like a tech-free space, for like half a day or 2.5 hours, we encouraged people to put their phones away and we took people through brewing processes, talked about Indian speciality coffee and engaged with people over coffee.”
After conducting a couple of workshops in the first few months of 2020, the pandemic hit. But they didn’t want to let go of their ethos of being free of distraction and focusing on the joy of the process. They instead attempted to transform the experience to a digital medium. Since they were so passionate about all the minutiae of making great coffee, they had to be mindful of the content they were sharing. They wanted their original idea to translate into three verticals within the purview of Aramse. On the content side, they are most active on Youtube and Substack. On these platforms share content across the gamut of coffee - from equipment reviews and brewing techniques to more thematic pieces around flavour in coffee, the coffee market and more. On the product side, they have been very intentional with what they sell. Their best-selling product is the SOFI - which is essentially the South Indian Filter reimagined. They also crowd-funded a Coffee Journal, which is basically like a daily notebook for the discerning coffee brewer. We also do cups as well. The third vertical of Aramse is the subscription service that they offer.
On Taking A Content Driven Approach
When the founding duo behind Aramse pivoted to the digital space, they started with daily posts on Instagram where they shared their brewing stories and such. But eventually, they started posting to Youtube, as they personally liked the platform and gravitated towards it. They simply started with brewing and cupping montages and slowly they moved towards reviews and tutorials. In February 2020, James Hoffman who is arguably the biggest name in specialty coffee right now and is the pioneer of Britain's third-wave coffee movement, put a takeover call out on his Youtube channel. He planned to give his channel over to 4 content creators to talk about coffee from their unique perspectives. Raghunath and Namisha pitched for this and ended up being one of the chosen four. They talked about decolonizing coffee through flavour and it was a big turning point for Aramse as it got them global recognition and visibility.
One of the biggest things that they have been trying to do through the content with Aramse is to talk about Indian coffee and coffee from a producing country. According to Namisha, “The voices from those countries need to be recognised more and that can be from the producing standpoint, wherein you highlight these coffees. But it is also from the other side of the spectrum, such as the brewing and technique. A lot of value is added at the consumption end of it. But the way coffee works right now is people associate producing countries with providing coffee and then it sort of makes its way into Europe, America, Canada and Australia and they create value through stories, roasting, brewing, equipment and such. The reason we took a content-first approach is because we always wanted to tell the story of Indian Coffee, but to a global audience and the digital platform has been super helpful in achieving this.”
In building Aramse, they realised that they wanted to put out content for a coffee-loving audience, irrespective of where they might be geographically and do their part in highlighting the best that Indian coffee has to offer.
A Proprietary System For Coffee Subscription
Within India, Aramse’s coffee subscription might be the only one of its kind. Their coffee subscription service is a fully custom proprietary coffee cueing engine that has been built from the ground up. It has a fully integrated recurring payment engine and it has a coffee queuing system that is fully recommendation based. Once someone makes their choice between bold, vibrant and balanced flavour profiles and a couple more criteria, Aramse will ship out orders based on those preferences — whether that is every two weeks or four. They use pretty straightforward questions to ensure a very low barrier to entry as they know that speciality coffee is confounding with fancy terminologies in current times.
From the roaster’s side, Aramse has partnered with 12 roasters that they personally enjoy. They also personally sample all of the coffee that they send out so that they can stand behind their recommendations. So even though an algorithm and proprietary system are working behind it, they also have an extensive database of Indian speciality coffee that is currently being sold in the market. To provide value to the roasters, in addition to selling their coffee through the subscription model, the Aramse team ensures there is an extensive feedback loop. They also ensure that the subscription model works out at an affordable rate by charging what the roasters do, without adding a premium. Once customers subscribe, they can rest easy knowing that the recurring model will deliver coffee that is suited to their taste on time, without any additional hassles.
Taking The South Indian Filter To The World
When it comes to making South Indian filter coffee, no two houses seem to make it the same way. There exists a marked difference between the specifics of the filters that are available in the market and based on this, the technique for brewing differs. The number of holes in the curvature and every other dimension in between can change between different filters. It usually takes days and maybe even years of continued use to understand what works, when trying to make coffee with a filter. With SOFI, Raghunath and Namisha hope to facilitate the use of the brewer in a more modern context and to make it one that is suited to the discerning tastes of the modern coffee drinker. By creating a filter that is standardised in conjunction with an easy and consistent recipe developed over 2 years of testing, they can also ensure that customers get to enjoy a great cup from the get-go.
This need for standardisation to the South Indian Filter is what prompted Aramse to create SOFI. It allows one to brew coffee that is more in alignment with the preferences of the modern coffee drinker who is mindful of things like grind size and flavour profiles. It also enables a lot of knowledge sharing to happen, which was never really possible with the traditional filter. Today, Aramse has sold SOFI to almost 20 countries and counting. Owing to their dedicated Youtube and newsletter audience, they have a growing community of passionate brewers who are keen on knowledge sharing and experimentation. Most importantly, it makes it possible for the South Indian filter to be associated with more than just making the traditional Kaapi.
Having done extensive groundwork in the last couple of years, the duo behind Aramse hopes to scale and expand the brand in the next two years. They also hope to create more content that is thought-provoking and has a direct impact. For an outsider, the many different things that Aramse is doing might seem like a lot. But as a team, they are comfortable with the foundation of the verticals that they have built and hope to dive even deeper into each them and do even more.
You can learn more about the brand and explore its full range via their website.
You can follow Aramse here.
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