The world is made up of two kinds of people those who swear by the powers of a hot cup of tea, and those who need a cup of strong coffee to get them through the day. In both cases, unless one is set in ones ways, there are plenty of opportunities to experiment. And gourmet tea and coffee companies (especially those online) in India are eager to provide that service.
“The gourmet coffee market is relatively new, perhaps not older than 15 years. Since 2008, the awareness and demand of artisan, high quality and specialty coffees is increasing year by year, says Marc Tormo, who founded Marcs Coffees with his wife,” Matilde Mir.
He continues, “We have, through years of research on quality coffees and customer preferences, designed a range of signature blends to meet everyone’s needs and likes. One of the most emblematic blends we created during our first years of operations is the Buma Devi blend a dark roast coffee. The demand for espresso blends made us develop our Espresso Kaveri blend. And the Malabar Blues is venerated by many of our most loyal customers who enjoy the unique flavour of monsoon in their coffees.”
Over at Blue Tokai, another gourmet coffee company, the focus is on profile roasting of each coffee instead of signature blends. Apurva Ghoshal, community manager of Blue Tokai, says, “Every one of our farms sends us coffee and we sample roast each lot we get. We see which flavours we like and create a profile for each coffee. A profile is basically a graph that measures the temperature of the coffee beans. Its like roasting peanuts. You can either roast them at a very high temperature in the beginning and lower the temperature at the end or do the opposite there are a million ways to roast coffee and every single way changes the flavour of the coffee.”
Flavours are aplenty in the case of the other popular caffeinated beverage. Over at Sancha Tea, for instance, says its head of sales and marketing, Nikhil Kapur, “creating blends is a passion and we enjoy it every single day. We blend fresh flowers, herbs and spices in our teas, and each blend is carefully curated to create a balance and to highlight the hero ingredient. Our Turmeric Chai is an interesting blend that is worth tasting.”
Among the different kinds of tea though, the one that seems to have the most takers are the natural and healthy ones. “Unlike before,” says Snigdha Manchanda, tea sommelier and founder of Tea Trunk, “consumption of teas with artificial colouring and flavours is gradually decreasing. This generation demands more of natural and pure ingredients. Paying a premium for these blends is not a constraint that we see in our consumers, who are mostly in the age group of 25-45 years.”
Not only is money not a constraint for the young, but they are also more willing to try out experimental flavours. Sumit Shah, executive director of TE-A-ME Teas, says, “The younger audience is more interested in our fruit and flower range (herbal teas), which has interesting flavours such as Cranberry Apple, Apple Cinnamon and Strawberry Cream. We’ve observed that the youth is becoming more and more experimental with their flavour choices, moving far away from the traditional milk tea towards exotic fruit-infused herbal teas.”
The youth is just as interested in gourmet coffee. Blue Tokai’s Ghoshal confirms the same, sharing that 45.7 per cent of their customers are in the age group of 25 to 34 years old. The second largest consumer bracket (28 per cent) is made up of those between the ages of 18 and 24.
Despite being a niche market favoured by the young, gourmet food in general, says Sancha Teas Kapur, is here to stay. He adds, “The demand will gradually increase as our palates develop over time. We are not as experimental as the rest of the world, but with time we believe this will change.”
A Teaholic tells her tale
“For over a decade, Ive been consumed by the love of tea. I grew up collecting teas. Friends and family who would travel well would bring back tea as presents. At one point, I owned over 100 rare and exotic teas from China, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, England, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Kenya and so on. I owned this tea treasure, but I knew little about these teas. So in 2011, my passion for tea took me to a professional tea school in Sri Lanka, where I studied under the guidance of Japanese tea master, Nao Kumekawa. During my study, I visited numerous tea gardens, tasted 100 cups of tea a day, and profiled over 2,000 varieties of tea. I left tea school inspired and brimming with stories about tea, and decided to make it my mission to demystify tea-speak,” says Snigdha Manchanda, tea sommelier and founder of Tea Trunk.