Dyed in Coffee

A slip of the cup and the lip and we end up having a coffee stain on our favorite salwars, best office pants, expensive silk saree; the garment perhaps will never regain its original glory. The archenemy of many a homemaker in India, the coffee stain is dreaded. But, what if the coffee stain can be flaunted and created into an Art!

If you are thinking of ephemeral Latte Art, made by a Barista when you order a Cappuccino or a Latte at a Cafe, you are way off the mark. I actually mean wearing and displaying coffee in a more permanent status.

Malaa Treon, a textile artist from Pune who believes that art should be displayed through every medium possible including the human body through artistic attires, has researched and created a way through which coffee can be worn, displayed, and shown off on clothing and accessories. A germ of this idea originated when she interacted with Mrs. Sunalini Menon, CEO, Coffeelab who suggested if coffee could be used as a medium for creating art on fabric.

Malaa’s research and development with coffee over the past couple of years have been extensive with many misses and some successes. Malaa believes in using natural fabric and therefore her mediums have been natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk. She shared her experiences with coffee at the India¬†International Coffee Festival 2014, through a workshop titled Coffee Art on Silk.

If the stubborn coffee stain is any standard to go by, then coffee should be a strong and clinging dye. But Malaa’s experiences have been different; coffee and water do not even create any lasting effect on fabric and resulted is being washed off. So her experiments became more varied and complex.

Her extensive trials with different blends, concentrate, roasts resulted in the realization that since coffee is an elusive dye, the highest concentration of coffee decoction with the darkest roast would be the best possible solution for the fabric to absorb and retain.

While just a simple soaking process was not much of a success, Malaa tried steaming the fabric in coffee decoction which is a standard procedure in dying fabric. This was successful and coffee clung to the fabric. Out of the 3 fabrics used as a medium; silk and wool were successful, but cotton failed to give satisfactory results. She says that her personal favorite for coffee is silk and she continued to work with it.

Although steaming was successful in dying silk with coffee, creating art and designs on the dyed fabric was a different challenge altogether. Gum Arabic proved to be a savior to create the design. While Gum Arabic, water, and coffee decoction die not to give very profound effect, only gum Arabic and coffee decoction resulted in creating beautiful and impressive designs.

While sharing her results with the attendees at the workshop Malaa demonstrated the technique and allowed them to try their hand at creating coffee art on fabric.

It takes a determined person with perseverance to work with an elusive component such as coffee, but her passion for coffee is an ongoing process and she promises to experiment with the bean to create new processes, better consistencies, and new possibilities. India is well known for both coffee and silk and here is a thought for industry pundits – product differentiation by marrying silk and coffee?