Caffeine connoisseurs everywhere are raising a cuppa to a new wave of speciality coffee shops creating memorable experiences, one cup at a time
Words by Karan Karayi
Across India, there’s a bit of a change bubbling. For long the nation has been one of tea-totallers, with the ubiquitous cup of chai (in all its many shapes and forms) glugged by the glassful. Of late though, it seems that coffee – and particularly speciality coffee – has started to capture the imagination, particularly so in urban metropolitan areas. While still a niche, a slew of speciality coffee shops are popping up, and consumers can’t get enough of their caffeine fix.
What goes into the making of it?
Many might know this, but just as wine has its sommeliers to guide you on your wine-tasting experience, coffee has its own set of experts casting their gaze over beans (and has-beans). These experts (known as Q graders) assign a score out of 100 to these beans, and those that accrue at least 80 points out of 100 make the cut as a speciality coffee.
But there’s so much more to it than just this grading. Increasingly, consumers are keen to known of the source of their beans, bringing transparency in sourcing to the forefront. That also feeds in to knowing whether the brew is from a single estate, or is blended, before getting into the not-so-small matter of the quality of roast, freshness, and overall quality. All of this comes at a premium, but consumers seem to be voting for it with their wallets, quaffing cupfuls of speciality brews on the daily, and the market growing exponentially.
A bevy of brew-masters
These days, it’s difficult to traverse India’s urban landscape without coming across the famous two-tailed siren announcing the presence of a Starbucks. In the decade or so since the Seattle-based brewhouse came to India, it has gone from strength to strength, closing sales of INR 1000 crore for the first time in 2022, adding 71 stores to its roster in the process. Little wonder that more brands, such as Pret A Manger, Costa Coffee, and Tim Hortons have also made a beeline for India.
And it’s not just an international success story either; there are also some indi-genius’ at play as well, with Café Coffee Day probably the most famous of the lot to feed into the café craving of Indians. New-age brands, such as Blue Tokai, Third Wave, Subko, Mag Street, Araku, and many more have sprung up to cater to soaring demand. The names get progressively weirder too, such as Sleepy Owl, Bili Hu, Black Baza, Ainmane, Corrider Seven, and Flying Squirrel, to name a few. Given the aspirational value that urban Indian perhaps still holds for India’s hinterland, one wonders how long it will be before brands start looking at tier-1 and tier-2 Indian cities in a big way.
There is a lot of interest in artisanal coffee, the story the roaster talks about, what the estate talks about. People seem to be on board with paying more for their daily cuppa, and are open to experimenting, or even purchasing the beans from their preferred brand and simply roasting and grinding the beans in the comfort of their homes. This has led to a certain bouquet of coffee-growing estates captivating the imagination as demand grew for them, a phenomenon not seen in the nameless world of commercial-grade coffee.
Demand among the discerning
With certain pockets of consumers starting to enjoy greater disposable income, this has sparked interest in pursuing better experiences or accoutrements to their lifestyle. The craze for coffee can perhaps be attributed to this, and the tide of interest won’t fade away any time soon, it would seem. With fitness and wellness increasingly in focus, discerning drinkers are turning to black coffee, espressos, and the like to fuel their lifestyle, along with the diverse contemporary food menu on offer at cafés.
According to Euromonitor, India’s speciality coffee and tea outlet market is projected to grow by 31% from 2023 to 2027, making this interest more than just a storm in a tea (or coffee) cup. Interest in the thus far overlooked coffee bean is well and truly on the rise, leading us to ask when you, dear reader, will wake up and smell the coffee.