Instant coffees have been the morning motivation for coffee enthusiasts for decades. But not anymore. Coffee has become a lot more real and the world is embracing the aromas of freshly-ground beans, and the growing demand of specialty brands has almost replaced instant coffees. Wonder what makes them better? Well, while instant coffee is widely popular because of its convenience and affordability, its taste can be quite generic.
Apart from the complex taste profile that artisanal coffees offer, consumers are also demanding more traceability from their products. And catering to the demand, Araku is one such brand that stands out for its attention to a more sustainable and equitable coffee. The 100 per cent Arabica coffee with a rare aromatic profile, combining smoothness, balance and roundness has not only managed to become a universal favourite but is also the only homegrown coffee brand with flagship stores in Paris.
Recently, the award-winning organic, farm-to-table and seed-to-cup coffee brand joined hands with Mumbai’s popular Italian restaurant CinCin and introduced an exclusive coffee menu inspired by the coffee roasting traditions and coffee culture of Italy. We spoke to Aditi Dugar, chief brand advisor, retail and lifestyle of Araku coffee about her journey of putting the brand on the world map and its sustainability. Read on.
Excerpts of the interview:
1. Araku is the only homegrown coffee with flagship stores in Paris. Tell us about its journey?
Global coffee gurus who are the judges of the Specialty Coffee Association competitions told us that the coffee we grow, process and export is a world beater in quality. Our coffee tasting scores for thousands of farmer coffee samples were above 85/100. That’s when we were advised by the experts that our coffee is meant to be sold at premium prices in global specialty coffee auctions only. We did that for a few years selling only by invitation. In 2017, we decided to do the retail foray and debut with a flagship store in the historic Marais region in Paris.
Paris is the gastronomy capital and trendsetter for food and fashion. We felt if Paris puts us on the podium, we have arrived. Within a couple of years, we won a gold medal for the best coffee pod in the Prix Epicures OR 2018 Award in Paris, and we knew we could now expand this retail brand to other global markets.
2. How does one differentiate between a good and a bad coffee?
What makes a good cup of coffee is a brew with all characteristics, aroma, flavour, acidity, and quality. If the coffee has a slightly more bitter profile, then it could be deemed as an average cup of coffee where the flavour has been compromised. However, if the taste profile is complex with a hit of a citrus/sweet note then it’s been freshly roasted. A great tip when purchasing freshly roasted coffee would be to always check the packaging, that is the date of roast, the origin of coffee, and its blend.
3. How has the coffee scene changed over the years?
The Indian specialty coffee industry isn’t standing at all, rather moving forward at a quick pace. New cafes and roasters are springing up rapidly, and the demand for quality is growing. Consumers are reacting positively to the growth and are more sophisticated in their coffee choices and are beginning to appreciate the finer nuances of coffee. Choices in flavour profiles, roast style and brewing methods, for example. At Araku, the evolution of specialty coffee leads not just to the rise in the quality of the flavour profiles but also to the socio-economic empowerment of the farmers.
4. Tell us about Gems of Araku.
Gems of Araku is an annual harvest festival that celebrates both the seasons’ specialty coffee micro-lots as well as the farms and farmers of Araku for their contribution to creating world-class coffee. Farmers of Araku have continuously honed their coffee terroirs to enhance coffee bush health, build organic carbon soil and regenerate the landscape. Over 1800 micro lots each season are put through a rigorous evaluation by professional coffee cuppers following Cup of Excellence and Specialty Coffee Association protocols, led by Sherri Johns, former Cup of Excellence judge, Araku coffee mentor, and Gems of Araku head judge. These micro lots are then auctioned off at their highest bid to international countries such as Japan, the USA, South Korea, etc.
5. What do you have to say about the growing trend of coffee cocktails?
When it comes to coffee cocktails, globally it’s always been on bar menus. Even though it’s been trending for a while, it’s definitely here to stay. It also leaves room for creativity that goes beyond lattés, offering sophisticated alternatives. Apart from bringing awareness to the beautiful complexity of the coffee, it’s also a chance for baristas to showcase that coffee isn’t just meant to be sipped between errands. It can lead to a more ‘innovative after 7pm experience’ for a consumer.
6. How sustainable is Araku coffee?
Straight from our farm to your cup, Araku is the first 100 per cent organic single-origin coffee from India whose journey from the coffee plant to your cup bypasses the middle man. We are guided by one of the world's leading agronomists, David Hogg who ensures that our processes are good for the earth, and for the farmers. Globally, coffee production is one of the largest causes of water pollution and waste. However, our coffee has a low water footprint because it uses 36x less water than traditional processing methods.
7. How are you giving back to the farmers?
Inspired by this beginning, we call the future vision Arakunomics, another name for food-economics. It is a shared value concept where we ask basic questions on every aspect of food which is - “Is the food that you eat guaranteeing that the farmer who produced it will make sustained profits?” That’s the first part of it. We call it the P. Then we have the Q – which is, is the food that you eat nutritious and of high quality. And lastly, if the way the food was produced is at any cost to the planet, what we call R - which is it should be Regenerative and not terminal. That is the PQR. If these three boxes are ticked, then the method of preparing food or the system of food creation and consumption becomes Arakunomics because it was in Araku that we developed this.
A small beginning in this direction has been made by Naandi Foundation through the creation of the Arakunomics model in three different parts of India – tribal hilly region of Araku in the Eastern Ghats; rural drought prone lands of Wardha and the metro city of Delhi. In over 17+ years of work, they have been able to prove that it is possible to ensure food and nutrition for all as well as profits for farmers without any collateral damage to the environment.