It all started from my hometown, Siliguri, which shares its boundaries with Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars. Together,they account for the single largest tea growing region in the world.
My dad has always been fond of tea; especially the orthodox variety from Darjeeling. My earliest memories are of him preparing a delicate cup of tea for himself in a sparkling sterling silver brewing set. He would then recline on his wooden armchair, and sip on his tea ever so slowly. I would be fascinated with the entire process and the effort he put into getting the right ‘blend’.
In due course, as the shine of the silver tea set started fading, my affinity towards coffee sparkled. I thought, if tea, a beverage which is so widely consumed in India can have multiple methods of brewing, what about coffee? And, how are these two beverages so distinctly placed in the minds of Indians that we are willing to shell out a crisp note of INR500 including GST at a Starbucks but hesitant to spend more than INR50 for a cup of tea.
The easy way out – instant coffee
Instant coffee has been around for 100 years or more and the vast majority of coffee drinking Indians consume instant coffee. All one needs to do is take a cup of milk/water, a spoon of coffee, give it a good stir and it is ready to sip. Since childhood, we have been seeing glass jars of ‘Nescafé’ or ‘Bru’ in our kitchen cabinets. Unconsciously however, this has confined the whole concept of coffee drinking within the four walls of most kitchens.
But did you know that the coffee in your cup every morning undergoes intricate processing? It all starts with the cherries, which are handpicked once ripe, followed by processing, drying and milling. Thereafter, the beans are exported and then roasted.
The first wave of coffee culture in the world came about in the early 19th century, where poor quality instant coffee was produced by mass roasting. This process destroyed the essence of coffee. The second wave of coffee culture emphasised on higher quality beans, and the flagbearer of this era was Starbucks.
Freshly brewed coffee signals a new era
The Starbucks’ and the homegrown Baristas’ freshly brewed high-quality coffee beans and the smell of freshly brewed coffee definitely stirs emotions. Suffice to say that it does cast a magical spell on us! And this possibly why we do not think twice before ordering a cup of coffee at INR500 or more.
Currently, we are experiencing the third wave of coffee culture, with multiple coffee chains, like ‘Blue Tokai Coffee’, ‘Dope Coffee’, ‘Corridor Seven’ and many more setting up roasteries and French-styled cafes. They have taken the coffee experience a step further. They specialise in freshly roasting coffee beans in small batches based on our preferences in different elevations. They add infusions such as honey or caramel and even deliver at our doorstep!
Believe me or otherwise, but coffee beans have more tones than the best wines ever bottled. Different family-run estates across India — from Ratnagiri, Seethargundu, and Thogarihankal, among others have meticulously worked hard to enrich the quality of India grown coffee beans. What is surprising, however, is that we are still dependent on a Starbucks or a Barista for a good cup of coffee, when there are multiple methods to brew fresh coffee in our homes itself.
It definitely is the era to be smart, economical and passionate about the drink
In a reversal of commonly observed trends, many are now choosing freshly roasted beans over mass produced instant coffee powder. Fortunately, a wide variety of coffee beans are available from different plantations across India. All it takes is a desire to sip freshly brewed coffee from the comfort of our homes. Why depend on Starbucks? Why not save some valuable money?
When lockdowns were declared, I ordered and sampled different coffee beans from various plantations across the country. I have also tried my hands on different brewing methods, like the channi method, pour-over, aero-press, siphon and French press. The more passionate you get with time, more subtle tones can be turned out — ones that will tantalise your taste buds. I personally prefer the aero-press method as it is quick and yields the most flavourful coffee in my opinion.
So how about being your own barista? Why not savour the homemade delicate notes of coffee beans and appreciate the art behind it? I suggest you wait no further and order yourself some specialty coffee before stocks runs out.