The coming of age of Indian coffee
The term third wave coffee originated sometime in the 1990s in the United States of America. This was a movement that focused on high-quality beans, coffee farmers and roasters and not just the end product. It brought attention to the individual flavor of the coffee bean that a region produces and connects the coffee with the consumer. The first and second wave meanwhile referred to the rise of ready-to-brew coffee in the early 20th century and the rise of specialty coffee with specific roasting and profiling in late 20th century respectively.
In India the third wave was popularized in only a few years ago when players like Blue Tokai, Third Wave and Flying Squirrel started working with Indian farmers and the Indian bean. These establishments with their novelty made coffee more aspirational and elite to young Indians. Concentrated in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad these young entrepreneurs brought single origin artisnal coffee to the forefront of the Indian coffee movement and made it popular internationally.
"In all my travels before setting up Corridor Seven, when I met people from the coffee industry they hardly knew that India grows coffee. This, when India grows some of the most beautiful coffee," says Mithilesh Vazalwar who later set up Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters to ensure India and the world can access Indian coffee. "My goal, says Mithilesh, is to make people try Indian coffee and not just look at west for their coffee needs." Like all new age roasters Mithilesh is also making optimum use of technology like Brix meter, Refractometers, Color Meter, Color Sorting Roast Profiling of coffee via Cropster Software.
Fourth Wave in the making
It is hard to say if Indian coffee is bringing in the fourth wave albeit all trends indicate so. After successfully taking words like flavor profile, terrier, and tasting notes to coffee, the industry has set out to create complex flavours trough smoking, fermenting, and ageing. Maverick & Farmer, a Bengaluru based brand have been leading this movement with their cold smoked, lacto fermented, and orange juice fermented coffee. Founded in 2018 by three passionate coffee entrepreneurs and founders of The Flying Squirrel coffee - Sreeram G, Tej Thammaiah and Ashish D’abreo, Maverick & Farmer attempts to innovate and re-imagine coffee experiments in cultivation, processing, and pairing of flavour notes. Like most coffee makers today, Maverick & Farmer Coffee Roasters’ source their coffee from its own estate in Coorg and focus on permutation and combinations to creatively explore coffee from cherry to cup.
Roastery Coffee House's Casacara is another such example. The coffee brings the delicate sweetness if coffee cherry with high potassium, antioxidants, and a rich mineral concentration, it is one of its kind coffee that uses the outer husk of the coffee cherry. Founded in 2017 by Nishant Sinha, Roastery coffee was created with one goal: to create great and consistent coffee and share it with as many people as possible. "Our aim is to source and roast some the best coffees available," says Nishant who found it hard to convince farmers to sell him Indian coffee in the beginning but has worked with multiple estates since. While Nishant believes in paying fare wages to coffee growers and helping them create sustainable practices of farming, the estates reciprocate with exceptional quality of produce. Today all coffees from Roastery Coffee score 86 points or more on the grading scale hence being eligible for the tag of Specialty Coffee - a term used to describe the highest quality beans.
The homecoming of specialty coffee
It was in 2020 however that India's coffee revolution came of age - and came home to its consumers. Lockdowns and restrictions made it pertinent for brands to offer coffee that could be brewed at home, consumers meanwhile found it convenient to brew their favourite coffee at home. "Home brewing saw a huge jump after initiation of the work from home culture post pandemic," says Nishant. Since people did not have access to commercial brewing equipment they also started experimenting with home brewing options. Overnight terms like aero press, french press, pour over, started trending and discussions on beans, roasts, grinds, notes, and flavors took center stage.
"We roast our coffee daily and deliver it fresh to our customers as per their preference of grind, roast, and estate, this means when the coffee is brewed at home, it is as close to the café as it possibly can," informs Nishant. While most Indian coffee lovers now have some brewing equipment, the ones who don't, do not have to worry, brands now also offer grinds that can go into traditional South Indian filter or the good old channi. With all this localization and isn't the café culture at risk, I wonder? Roasters do not feel so. The exposure, they say, will only cement the association with coffee and build an overall coffee culture in India which in turn with lead to a long term lifetime change rather than a topical trend. I hope that really happens.