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Blue Tokai to The Flying Squirrel: The best of the new-wave Indian roasters

Your relationship with it has evolved since the days when burnt watery drip got you through finals. You’re a macchiato man now. A lover of la dolce vita. But there’s a whole caffeine-fuelled world out there that’s going to change that once-uncomplicated habit of yours into an elaborate ritual.

You think we’re exaggerating, but
 just try uttering the words “instant coffee” around the new breed of “caficionados”. And brace for impact. (Hazelnut cappuccino is the intermediate level, if you’re wondering.) Whether you subscribe to the fold or not, this new wave of coffee evangelists are drawing attention to the story of the bean. Thanks to them, “grabbing a cuppa” has been elevated from the mere vernacular of a social sip to an experience involving myriad flavours and processes.

It’s the difference between a bargain bottle of red and a Bordeaux Grand Cru -it’s a potion that demands to be spoken about. This “third wave” (as the jargon goes), with its emphasis on coffee character, process transparency and provenance, has only recently washed up onto Indian shores. But the tide is coming in thick and heavy, one strong cup at a time. Thankfully, we’re still a couple of waves away from hipster deconstructed coffee (or are we?).

The Indie Indi Coffee Scene

Freshness, timeliness and treatment of the bean – from its growth to the final grind – define the best of the new wave of Indian roasters.

The name that’s become synonymous with quality Indi brews is Blue Tokai.

Four years ago, Matt Chitharanjan and Namrata Asthana moved from Chennai – where the smog’s at bay and good coffee is aplenty – to New Delhi. The only beans they found easy access to in the capital were the commercial packs or imported specialities that lacked freshness. After zeroing in on a handful of estate sources across south India, Blue Tokai made its way into established restaurants and cafés, with online sales, direct to customers, soon following. Today, it has two cafés – in New Delhi and Mumbai – where coffee is king and the Indian coffee farmers are the heroes.

Third Wave Coffee Roasters is one of the youngest on the scene, with its single-origin beans sourced from six curated Chikmagalur estates. With a dedicated space in Koramangala, Bengaluru, that draws allusions to a high school chem lab, the café is tailormade for tinkering and experimenting. Luckily, with co-founders Ayush Bathwal and Anirudh Sharma overseeing the space, there aren’t any mishaps. The Ranchi boys take turns handling the floor, spreading their love for fine coffee and teaching folk how to tell their Arabica from their Robusta.

Another Bengaluru favourite is
 The Flying Squirrel, founded by Ashish D’Abreo, which sources about 80 per cent of its artisan coffee from
a single estate in Coorg. There, they experiment with cross-cropping (growing in the midst of citrus, vanilla or spice patches, etc) and profile- roasting to create unique expressions. The range includes single beans and blends that are roasted two or three times a week and shipped to customers immediately after. Packs are also available for sale at the café, and it’s even likely to bottle its cold brew soon.

There are others pushing this third wave of coffee too – The Indian Bean, Black Baza, Halli Berri, Seven Beans – all of whom offer monthly subscriptions to have freshly roasted whole or ground beans delivered directly to your home.

In an attempt to keep things local 
yet convenient, Delhi-based Karan Tibrawalla has taken a slightly different route with Fresh Brew Company. Via its website, the brand offers a range
 of organic-certified, Indian-origin, Nespresso-compatible capsules that are ground to order, to keep things as fresh as possible. Since the hot new thing is the cold brew, a style that caters to many newbie coffee converts, Fresh Brew Co also bottles its cold brews and delivers them to your doorstep, as frequently as you’d like, in neat packs of four. Add a splash of Fever Tree – or vodka or gin, if you’re so inclined – for a refreshing coffee tonic.

The Ammo

  • Aerobie Aeropress
W hether you want a large cup to nurse or a concentrated espresso shot, this durable plunger does the job. For those who’d rather not wait for their brew.
  • Presse Coffee Brewer
 For instant hot coffee on the go. The former Kickstarter project is a travel mug that will filter a fresh cup in minutes, and keep it hot for hours.
  • Handpresso Pump
This bicycle pump-like portable espresso maker requires just ground coffee, hot water and a little muscle.

Next Big Thing: Nitro Coffee

What is it? Basically an iced coffee infused with nitrogen. Tiny nitrogen bubbles band together to create a thick, foamy head and impart a smooth, creamy mouth feel. Think of it as a coffee stout your boss won’t object to. Currently only Blue Tokai pours it on tap, but it’s only a matter of time before the trend explodes in local cafes

Wake up and smell the cross-cropped, single-estate, barista-crafted coffee coming out of India right now.

Blue Tokai, New Delhi And Mumbai

Sip: The Nitro Coffee, and not only for how rare it is to find in India. Cold- brewed for 20 hours, it’s fruity and chocolatey, with low acidity and, of course, that lush, creamy nitro texture.

The Baarbara Estate pourover offers a biscuity, citrusy brew with 
a lingering chocolate finish. For a fruity, nutty and balanced cup try the pourover with MS Certified Organic Arabica instead.


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