Conversations over coffee are an integral part of lifestyle today. Be it catching up with a loved one, a special friend or just hanging out with a bunch of friends, coffee has a ‘cool’ vibe to it. In southern India, filter ‘kaapi’ is a staple and it is now getting reinvented with unique flavours and twists to sync with the new generation’s changing preferences. More importantly, building a sustainable business that benefits farmers is a silver lining that one cannot take lightly.
In conversation with Financial Express Online, we have Nishant Sinha, the young founder of Roastery Coffee, a unique concept that blossomed from his passion and ardent love for the beverage. Founded in 2017, Roastery Coffee was formulated with one goal: to create good coffee and share it with those who love drinking this beverage and create a sustainable business that treasures the value chain from crop to cup.
In 2017, the launch of the Hyderabad Roastery, the flagship of the brand, brought to life the vision of the café concept built on the coffee roasting experience, followed by the launch of Kolkata Roastery in June 2019, located on the ground floor of the iconic South India Club that was started by Nobel laureate Sir C V Raman.
Notably, Hyderabad Roastery is a five-time winner at the Food Awards while Kolkata Roastery bagged ‘Best Café Award’ from The Telegraph.
Speaking to Financial Express, Roastery Coffee’s founder said, “We all watch and learn to do something different. Anything which is happening outside the country, we are doing that at Roastery, there’s nothing that we are missing out. Probably in terms of creating the same kind of cafes which are in Italy, we keep looking for spaces and try to replicate something similar which is there. But it’s difficult as the weather there is very nice and in India it becomes difficult for us. Talking about the coffee experience, more or less everything which is happening globally is being replicated at Roastery Coffee House. However, we are also trying to do unique things, for example Cascara, very few countries are doing Cascara coffee and Cascara Coffee is now available in India too at Roastery Coffee.”
So, what exactly is the discovery of “Cascara”? A basic explanation is that it refers to the coffee cherry tea in India which enabled the farmers to earn extra perks and promote a zero waste concept. In Nishant’s words, “Discovery of Cascara is one of those things which makes our business sustainable and a zero-waste business.”
On a lighter note, when asked what is the best thing to put on the plate with coffee, his peppy response is, “Croissant, is something which I love to have with my coffee.”
‘Roasting coffee equals meditation’. Given the love that Indians have for both coffee and meditation, can you share something about your vision and passion when it comes to growing, brewing and amplifying the reach of coffee through Roastery Coffee?
Absolutely, roasting for me is meditation, even brewing. While roasting coffee I’m completely into it and totally focussed. We are trying to tell people that roasting is a sort of meditation and should be done with complete focus.
Why coffee, not tea, in your perspective?
I think I grew up drinking a lot of coffee so that has made me really passionate about coffee, not tea.
What have your travels around southern India taught you about people’s coffee preferences and how is it different from major metro cities such as Delhi, Mumbai etc?
Delhi and Mumbai are non-traditional markets,where coffee is still catching up. While the southern part of India is completely into it and it’s called the traditional market where the coffee is grown and the natives of these places also drink a lot of coffee. It’s a different thing that they drink coffee in different ways, probably filter coffee or in some other form, not in the purest form, like the black coffee or speciality coffee but they have been connected with coffee for a very long time and they only drink coffee not tea. Whereas in Delhi and Mumbai, people go out to drink coffee and drink tea at home, so it’s a mixed culture.
Tell us about your discovery of ‘Cascara’ and how it has benefited farmers.
Cascara is the husk of coffee. Earlier, it was thrown as garbage or a fertilizer and was always considered a waste but what we did is that we pick up the cascara, process it as well and use it in our cafes to make tea or probably some other beverages and it’s doing very well in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Delhi.That’s what I love about Cascara, also, on the other hand, the farmers are getting benefited out of this, they are getting extra money though the money is not much but they are still getting it so basically a zero waste product. So when we talk about sustainability, Cascara actually helps you to make your business a zero waste product. This is all about the discovery of Cascara.
Also speaking of farmers, how does coffee cultivation benefit the farmers and does it vary from the northern market to the southern markets? How are you working with farmers to grow and maintain your sustainable business?
We also work very closely with the farmers and we ensure that the farmers are well taken care of and the farmers take care of their employees well. We always pay them premium prices, like we don’t buy coffees in bulk, we say you work a little extra but we will give you a little extra money because we are in city and we can charge a premium from our consumers and consumers won’t mind paying so we all the more don’t want to compromise when it comes to paying the farmers. Most farmers do not use fertilizers to grow coffee but whatever minimum we can do at the farm level, we do that.
What are some of the emerging global trends when it comes to coffee brewing techniques? Is India ready to adapt to it?
India is definitely ready to adopt the emerging global trends. The whole world is talking about the third wave and fourth wave of coffee and India is already doing that. There is a body that we follow, it’s Speciality Coffee Academy and they are the ones setting new rules for the third wave and fourth wave of coffee. A lot of local players, whether it’s a farmer or a roaster or the brewers, we all are following that.
Whether you go abroad and have coffee or you have it in India there is not much of a difference and India is definitely at par with the emerging global trends.
Tell us about your key offerings and bestsellers so far. For instance, tell us about the specialty coffee sachets and what makes it different from brewing tea at home?
Our key offerings for the last year was the speciality coffee sachet during the lockdown and before that it was cascara. This year we are banking heavily on some new product launch and it will be out soon.We don’t want to talk much about it now but we will be talking about it next month. The coffee sachet actually makes your job easier, when you are brewing coffee at home, it doesn’t need any equipment, or anything. You just have to brew it simply, it’s as simple as making tea at home.