Spilling the beans

Spilling the beans

Spilling the beans

A good coffee brew can come in different avatars — a simple and sugary filter ‘kaapi’ in a steel tumbler, a well-proportioned cappuccino, an artistic latte, a dense espresso shot or with hints of chocolate, liquor and caramel. But whatever the disguise, the beverage has a growing fan base, and now, whipping up a cup of coffee is nothing short of an art.

This art, however, isn’t restricted to just the brewing; the detailed labouring that goes into a single cup of Joe, which goes unnoticed by most, is the highlight of the second annual ‘Coffee Santhe’. Organised by the Women’s Coffee Alliance (India), the event will have 43 stalls paying homage to the roasted bean, starting tomorrow, till September 27, at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath.

Sunalini Menon, a coffee evaluator and cupper, says that there is more to a good cup of coffee than just the taste. Factors like aroma, texture and look also play an important role. And to bring out the perfect-tasting beverage, she says that one must pamper it all throughout — right from planting the seed to harvesting, fermentation, processing and packaging.

“One has to look at different attributes — the mouth-feel, texture, viscosity, flavours — when tasting. And there are a range of flavours — jasmine, citrus, caramel, chocolate, banana, peach, plum — that come with the plant. These are genetically there, and when they are being processed, I highlight certain flavours. Everything depends on how they are picked, processed and fermented,” she says.

The proceeds from the Santhe will go towards the education of the daughters of coffee plantation labourers. In a field that headed by men, the Alliance is trying to educate the women and support them as a large number of labourers all around the world are women. They, however, are never given a managerial role, and are left to toil on the fields.

Along with various stalls, there will be a Women’s Brewmaster Championship, a first of its kind, that will encourage women baristas to get innovative with their brewing. Bands like ‘Pineapple Express’ and ‘Chronic Blues Circus’ will also perform, and discussions and competitions will take place. The Alliance will also try to get rid of popular (but untrue) notions on the quality of coffee.

“When grading coffee, there are two types — ‘Q’ for quality or Arabica coffee and ‘R’ for Robusta. I always fight that and ask why it can’t be ‘A’ for Arabica; Robusta is also quality coffee, though it’s considered a poorer cousin of Arabica,” says Sunalini. But this notion is quickly changing in India, where planters are coming out with high-quality blends of Robusta.

Joisane Cotrim, a planter from Brazil, is also of the opinion that there is a terrible prejudice against Robusta. She adds that coffee is a “humble seed” and one must be humble when growing it.

“No one knows everything about it. My father, who was also a coffee planter, would say that there is no doctor for it. You learn something about it everyday, and you have to be humble about it.”

Sunalini, who is a coffee addict, opines that the coffee culture is a recent phenomenon. “It was not a young and happening drink. Our grandmothers would make it at home and we’d drink a little from them. But now, with more cafes coming up, the drink has become more popular.” The other members of the Alliance can’t help but agree with this as they see a rise in the consumption of coffee. Now, they are all prepped for the Santhe, which will see coffee in multiple disguises — as beverages, art work, accessories and more.

The ‘Coffee Santhe 2015’ is taking place at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, till September 27, from 11 am to 7 pm. Entry is free.

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