We’ve always been known more as a nation of tea producers and drinkers. We make some of the finest stuff, lots of which gets shipped off to various parts of the world, only to be packaged into ostentatious little boxes that sell at ridiculous prices. Coffee, on the other hand, is the product we’ve always been known to produce in huge quantities, but no one’s really figured out just how good the quality is. South American and African countries — and even Indonesia and Vietnam — have all had their share of the spotlight. Now, with a younger generation that’s more into coffee, and simultaneously into all things homegrown, the lush landscapes of Coorg and Chikmagalur are churning out more beans than ever to supplement the growing demand within the country.
The young professional is the target audience for various roasters and brewers that have cropped up — and he understands why he is paying a little extra for his daily cuppa Joe. He’s also happy to invest in a Nespresso machine, French press or drip filter coffee machine. On weekends, you may find him at Blue Tokai (with outlets in Mumbai and Delhi, which do phenomenal business), picking the brains of a barista and customising the best blend to take home. Mumbai’s Koinonia Coffee Roasters (KC Roasters) is likely his other haunt — there are blends from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu that are ground to suit your needs.
For the lazier ones, a bottle of cold brew is the latest craze, and rightly so. What’s cold brew, you ask? It’s coffee that is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water (roughly 1:8 or 1:10 ratio) for 16 hours or more. To brew, you strain the mixture to remove the larger grounds, and there you have it. The result is markedly different from the conventionally brewed coffee we’ve been used to over the years, with a stronger range of flavours. And for those who avoid coffee because it leads to acidity, cold brewing doesn’t bring out acids, and in turn is a healthier product.
What’s also convenient is just how easy it is for even a beginner to make coffee using a bottle of cold brew, sans any machines or equipment. You can have it straight up, or with ice, milk and sugar in the quantities you prefer. A bottle can stay good up to a fortnight, although it might be argued that using it up within five days or so is best if you want the full range of flavours to stay intact.
Café Zoe’s co-owner, Jeremie Horowitz, stumbled upon the concept when a brewer wrote in, hoping to supply his cold brew to the restaurant-lounge. Instead, Horowitz — a coffee fiend himself — decided to try cold brews at a couple of places and then start experimenting with his own. Multiple experiments later, he’s hit upon a ratio and grind that works. The Coffee Company supplies him with grounds customised exactly to his liking, and batches of 1 kg at a time are brewed. Each batch yields about 2.5 litres of cold brew.
Horowitz, like most Belgians, loves his coffee purely for its taste, and usually has an espresso after his meals. Cold brew, he’s happy to report, is smoother and more flavoursome. “We do a batch every 2-3 days, and I’m surprised by how many people are ordering it. We did a lot of tests before hitting upon a blend that works for us. Although there’s no right or wrong, we like our cold brew to be a bit dense,” he says.
The café hasn’t stopped at serving just lattes or espressos that use cold brew. Interesting variants include one that uses tonic, and another with malt syrup and crushed orange. The Americano even has cold brew ice cubes, and the affogato now takes longer to melt because the coffee is cold brewed. Horowitz is so pleased with the response that he’s trying to phase out hot brews entirely, and even a cocktail menu using cold brews might be on the cards soon.
He won’t be the first person to execute that idea, though. Coffee lover Vishal Sainani — who takes time out of working in his family’s plastics business to sell bottled cold brew under his own brand, Brew Ex Machina (BXM) — approached his friend Dishant Pritamani to try his brews. Pritamani, who owns popular Mumbai watering hole The Daily, immediately wanted to put them on his menu. “We didn’t have coffee cocktails earlier, but were inspired to do this after trying Vishal’s cold brew. It is naturally sweet and less acidic; we realized that it enhances the taste of the cocktails because it highlights the flavour of the coffee better than anything powdered,” he says.
For Sainani, BXM was the result of a home experiment. “I was a big fan of Gloria Jean’s Coffee and would buy one or two every day. After they shut, I didn’t like anything else, so I started trying things at home. When friends and family gave me good feedback, I finally decided to take my cold brew to a pop-up and did a small tasting,” he says. With even strangers giving him largely glowing reviews, Sainani was finally confident that he had a winner on hand, and started working on developing the brand. BXM uses a 100 per cent Arabica blend from Chikmagalur and currently sells around 20 bottles a day. At Rs 300 a pop, they come in quantities of 180 ml, making them ideal for around four coffees.
For a stronger, more reasonably priced blend — perhaps due to the larger scale of production — KC Roasters don’t disappoint. Their 180 ml bottles that sell at Rs 150 are flying off the shelves at their store, a hipster haunt in the heart of Khar. “Our ready-to-drink cold brew has a distinctly smooth, dark chocolate taste and can be had straight up from the bottle or cut with milk, water, over ice, or whatever you’re in the mood for. It’s also why we brew it slightly stronger — so people can freely explore whatever pairing they fancy,” co-founder Shannon D’Souza tells us.
According to D’Souza, the various benefits of cold brew will ensure that it doesn’t remain a fad. “The earliest instances of people cold brewing their coffee can be traced back to 16th century Japan. Then there was a period in the middle when it lost some of its popularity. Over the last few years, it’s really caught on; first in North America and then spreading like wildfire into the other coffee drinking hubs around the world,” he explains, adding, “We wouldn’t personally see it as a fad, since there is a tangible shift that has occurred in the palates of Indians who now prefer to drink black, less acidic and complex tasting coffee.” Horowitz, too, is convinced that the future of Indian coffee lies in cold brew. He says, “For the longest time, Indian coffee hasn’t gotten its due because people here tend to add a lot of milk and mask the flavour. Cold brew has changed that.”