How do you like your coffee? A strong-bodied espresso? A cold brew or a classic French Press? Thanks to a bunch of homegrown coffee brands, more and more Indians are savouring their coffee the artisanal way – where the focus is on high-quality beans that highlight India’s single-origin estates, roasted by hand in small batches to ensure freshness, and finally, ground as per your preferred method of brewing. Think French press, moka pot, aero press.
This is the new wave, or the third-wave of coffee in India that has come about in the last few years. Cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru, among others, are now home to several micro roasteries, which offer a holistic coffee drinking experience – right from aroma to taste. So, you begin with choosing the flavour profile that appeals to you most (light, medium or dark roast). Often times, these have hints of chocolate, fruit, honey, spices, with aromas that range from nutty, sweet, and tropical, lending another flavour dimension to the roast. Lastly, you choose how you want your coffee ground.
Such artisanal coffee brands are disrupting the market by introducing consumers to quality Indian brews that go past instant and filter coffee. According to Ashish D’Abreo, co-founder, The Flying Squirrel, a Bengaluru-based artisanal coffee brand, when they started out six years ago, people’s understanding of artisanal coffee was very limited. “The only coffee available was the mass-produced, instant variety, or imported coffees, but nothing that promised freshness with good taste,” he says. “That’s what we wanted to change.” Fast forward today, consumers have become much more appreciative and aware of where their coffee comes from. “They don’t mind paying a premium, if it means a better quality brew,” he says.
It’s precisely this shift in consumer perception that’s got more brands to join the bandwagon. Blue Tokai, one of the other early entrants in the market, started with a small roastery in New Delhi. Today, they’ve expanded to 21 cafés pan-India and are in the process of launching 10 more this year.
While India has been exporting coffee to global players for decades, these brands are slowly changing the narrative and bringing quality beans to Indian consumers. One of them is Araku Coffee, founded and run by the Naandi Foundation in Andhra Pradesh. Not only is the climate and soil in the Araku Valley apt for growing coffee, what’s unique is the involvement of the local tribal farmers, right from growing, harvesting to processing coffee. “We have artisanal farms with each farmer looking after one acre of coffee plantations. Araku belongs to the specialty coffee category and because of its high quality, has consistently been scoring over 85/100 in international cupping protocols,” offers Manoj Kumar, CEO, Naandi Foundation.
Increasingly, brands are now experimenting with new brews, blends and flavour profiles. At The Flying Squirrel’s café in Bengaluru, you can choose from four varieties of coffee-infused ice creams using different blends. Similarly, craft coffees are making their way into cocktails, desserts, infusions and more. Coffee cupping sessions are also popular with patrons who want to learn correct methods of brewing and what equipment to use.
We give you a round-up of the seven of the top artisanal Indian coffee brands:
Koinonia’s non-descript location in one of Mumbai’s popular neighborhoods draws in a multitude of people for their cold brews and specialty coffee. All coffees are hand-roasted and sourced from several estates in Southern India. Popular variants include the Marvahulla. They also offer a cask aged coffee, where the beans are aged in whisky barrels and then roasted.
Offering superior quality biodegradable coffee beans and blends that are grown and processed by local Adivasi farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Araku is gaining recognition on the world stage as well. Last year, Araku Coffee won the prestigious Prix Epicures gold medal in Paris, beating blends from other countries. In India, the brand offers four variants of coffee, with bestsellers being the Signature and Micro Climate.
An endeavour to create a ‘a local, participatory and meaningful movement for coffee’ is what launched Black Baza Coffee. Their coffee is 100 percent traceable back to the farm, shade grown, and believes in giving back to the society and environment (think employment, reforestation). They offer Arabica and Robusta beans, and blends of both with different flavours. Dark chocolate notes, South Indian filter kaapi, fruity flavours, and many regular flavours are accompanied by regular limited editions.
Four Kariappa women run this family-owned coffee estate in Karnataka. In their family for six generations, the ‘House of Halli Berri’ produces sustainably farmed coffee, grown under shade, and the cherries handpicked. Made in small batches, and 100 percent Arabica, this gourmet coffee carries a honey-dew flavour.
This Bengaluru-based brand was started by Tej Thammaiah, a third-generation coffee farmer, and Ashish D’Abreo, an advertising executive. The brand offers up to 11 different brews with a rotating menu of seasonal coffees. Favourite coffees include the Parama with notes of chocolate and the Sunkissed brew.
This Coorg-based brand produces one of the most expensive coffees in the world – civet coffee, the process of which involves coffee cherries being ingested by wild civet cats and then later excreted, for the beans to be picked and processed. Besides this, Ainmane also offers a variety of coffee blends.
Blue Tokai, co-founded by Matt Chittaranjan and Namrata Asthana in 2013, offers freshly roasted coffee in a range of roasts from light to very dark. “Our coffee is sold as beans for customers who like to grind their own coffee before drinking it (which is what we usually recommend) or specifically for the brewing equipment they use,” the duo says. The Attikan Estate and organic coffee from the MS Estate are some of the bestsellers.