Remember the good old days when the fresh aroma of your mom's piping hot coffee in a steel tumbler would get your taste buds working overtime every morning? The crackling sound of boiling water poured over parched coffee powder was like music to the ears wasn't it? How eagerly you would wait for the decoction to trickle down from the filter to enjoy your mug of steaming bliss? Though in many Indian households, coffee still weaves the same magic every morning, the coffee industry is at its booming best with a range of plush and cosy cafÃ©s springing up everywhere.
Exotic versions of the beverage are finding many takers and people are willing to go the extra mile and pay the extra price just to get a sip of their favourite drink at its best. Coffee workshops, master classes and even impromptu brewing sessions at neighbourhood cafÃ©s have helped people understand a lot about the beverage. The best forms of coffee like gourmet, artisan and speciality are making their way into our kitchens. Is it because India produces some of the world's best coffee? Or is it because Indian food goes well with coffee? It is a combination of both along with a host of other factors, believes Marc Tormo Altimira, a coffee expert who has curated a menu of organic, gourmet coffees for 1Q1 Kitchen & Bar in Bengaluru.
A coffee entrepreneur, roaster, brewer and creative consultant, with more than 20 years of international experience in the specialty coffee movement, Marc believes that the modern day consumer has a huge role to play for coffee's transformation from a cuppa next door to a glam, gourmet beverage. "There is a new breed of conscious consumers who aren't impulsive and wish to know everything about coffee. Be it to start their day or to socialise, people are willing to spend the big bucks on damn good coffee and why not! It's different kind of luxury isn't it?" he asks.
A drink that is more complex than wine, coffee has over 1,200 compounds that make it what it is. However, not many know that India was one of the countries to cultivate coffee. It all started in the 17th century when Baba Budan, a Sufi saint on his way to Mecca, stopped at Yemen to enjoy a cup of coffee. Seduced by its taste, he decided to smuggle a few coffee beans into India. Slowly, coffee was grown near his native area in Chikkamagaluru and today, Karnataka is proudly called as the coffee capital of India with regions like Mysuru, Chikkamagaluru and Coorg producing more than 50% of the country's coffee.
From cappuccino to now 'selfieccino' (selfie with your morning cuppa), it looks like sky is the limit when it comes to innovations in coffee. Be it chemex or siphon, different coffee brewing methods are catching the attention of coffee-lovers, who go all out to experience the drink at its best. For Srujana Kadimcherla, a popular city-based Instagrammer and foodie, coffee is more than what you get at darshinis and college hangouts. "It's a massive industry and people are willing to spend on coffee more than say, popcorn at the multiplex. It's totally worth it," she says.
She discovered the bigger world of coffee when she came to Bengaluru a few years ago. "Those days, it was all about the lattes, cappuccinos and Irish coffees at neighbouring cafÃ©s," she recollects. Now, thanks to the emergence of gourmet coffee, Srujana has been for many coffee tasting sessions and regularly explores the different cafÃ©s in the city. "I even understand things like what type of food goes what kind of coffee."
Well, the journey of coffee from a humble bean to a gourmet drink has sure been exhilarating but it's important to understand the difference between gourmet, specialty and artisan coffee. According to Marc, gourmet coffee is one that has gone through a specific selection process for the consumer to get the best of the bean, whereas specialty coffee is processed in a particular way and depends on the kind of farm and region that it belongs to. "It's a niche coffee that is not roasted in bulk in an industrial way. However, it won't be so niche anymore in future," he says. Artisan coffee, on the other hand, focuses a lot on the science and technology behind the roasting process.
While the consumers take a lot of interest in every step from how coffee beans are roasted and ground to how the drink is presented, the perils of a modern lifestyle too are many, believes Marc. "People have no time these days so they compromise on taste for the sake of convenience. Just like how forests are being cut to make way for buildings and farmlands, instant foods including coffees are hitting the market because of which the value of a beautiful product is lost. We should learn to appreciate everything around us, be it nature or a drink like coffee as ultimately we are the ones who will enjoy it."