First prelims of the Coffee Board’s prestigious annual competition, the National Barista Championship 2016, is being held at the Delhi Institute of Hotel Management in New Delhi today.

The Coffee Board of India took up the initiative of organizing the National Barista Championship from the year 2014 onwards, and this is the 3rd year of competition. This competition is framed to identify the technically skilled and best Baristas in this profession. The game mainly focuses on promoting excellence in the coffee value chain, strengthen and encourage skill development, and also to encourage café culture in India.

Dr. Aarti Dewan Gupta, Director of Finance, Coffee Board, while inaugurating the NBC event, said that the coffee industry in India has evolved over the last decade with café culture penetrating our urban lifestyles. The Indian consumer has also become discerning; thus, the role of a barista assumes greater importance. Coffee Board of India is committed to bringing in professionalism and expertise in this field.

Dr. K Basavaraj, Head, Coffee Quality, Coffee Board, while welcoming the participants, elaborated the way of conducting of the competition and said that the game is being held in three stages – the First prelim at New Delhi, the Second prelim at Bangalore and the Finals at Mumbai coinciding with the India International Festival 2016. He further said that there would be a total of seven categories to be won by the contestants. They are Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Best Signature Drink, Best Latte Art, and Best Communication skills. The competition was conducted as per the World Barista Championship rules and regulations. The winner will represent India in the World Barista Championship at Dublin, Ireland, in June 2016.

There is an overwhelming response from the industry, and as many as 17 participants registered for the First prelims of the NBC championship being held here in New Delhi.

Seven beans across the Seven seas – Seven Beans Coffee Company, Bangalore

How can many Indian coffee startups boast of an international partner from day one? In April 2015, Seven Beans Coffee Company, headquartered in Bangalore and with coffee farms in Chikmagalur, marked its entry into the Indian coffee market by launching its unique portfolio of coffee products that have been developed in partnership with Dr. Dante Cagliari and Maria Gabriella Cagliari of Caffè L’Antico, a leading coffee roasting business based in Modena, Italy.

Further, leveraging the partnership, this startup has also transcended geographical barriers by selling its products in various countries across the European Union. Seven beans, with a long history of coffee farming, has moved up the value chain by adopting a distinct strategy to mark its presence globally.

The business is currently managed by Abhijit and Advith Shetty, who hail from a distinguished family of coffee planters. The brothers, during their stints abroad to pursue their formal education, recognized the growing demand for exquisite coffee in the United States and various countries in the European Union. With the desire to grab a slice of the pie (and also grow the pie!!), the duo explored various secondary sources of information and met leading representatives of the Indian and global coffee industry. Their belief in the growing market for coffee was confirmed in 2012 when leading multinational coffee chains set up base in India. However, along with creating and consolidating Indian markets for excellent coffee, the brothers were determined to create a global coffee brand based on the unique characteristics of well-grown Indian coffee. The inherent need for expertise in global coffees led the Shettys to scout for a globally respected roastmaster, resulting in the partnership with L’Antico and Dr. Cagliari. The association has moved beyond just developing blends to a relationship that spans across equipment selection, bean evaluation, product portfolio development, marketing, and business development.

Seven beans’ production facility at Chikmagalur houses a technologically advanced, automated roasting machine which ensures consistently high-quality roasting outcomes. The integrated pneumatic setup enables pre-blending, and the business is commercially offering seven distinct blends. Based on the combinations created by Dr. Dante, the products are currently being sold in India through various channels, including premium food retail chains and online sites. Towards further expanding its presence in international markets and the Indian B2B segment, Seven Beans is in talks with leading cafes, distributors, and retailers. The business’s advantage lies in its ability to blend unique products that are on par with some of the leading global brands. Seven Beans intends to make its mark in the single-serve market, too, by launching capsules that are also produced in the Chikmagalur facility.

The brothers’ current focus is on acquiring new clients, creating more blends, and initiating steps to remain a leading premium coffee brand. Any visitor to a retail outlet that sells premium coffee is bound to take a second look at Seven Beans coffee due to the markedly extraordinary pack design that reflects a blend of the modern and traditional. The Seven Beans logo that includes an Italian mansion, snowcapped peaks, spokes, coffee beans, and delicate artwork nestles perfectly within the pack design that reflects grandeur and poise.

In a short period of time, Seven Beans Coffee Company has demonstrated the entrepreneurial drive and competence which has enabled it to extend its horizon beyond Indian shores. However, the brothers are aware of the challenges in achieving good volumes of pure coffee in India as well as the perceptions of pure Indian coffee blends in international markets. The business has identified premium Indian consumer segments which value quality and, for international consumers, has developed blends containing Indian and international coffees (with the production being undertaken in Modena). The channelizing of energies into product and market development is expected to lead to the sustained growth of the business. While Babu Budan’s seven beans have triggered the development of a robust and growing coffee industry in India, it is hoped that Seven Beans Coffee Company would unravel feasible strategies for Indian coffee startups to make rapid inroads into global coffee markets, and validate the approach of serving niche segments that recognize the goodness of Indian coffee.

Beekeeping increases yield of Robusta coffee


Robusta coffee


About one-third of plant products including Robusta coffee, consumed by human beings are directly or indirectly dependent on bee pollination. The great value of bees as pollinators of coffee plants has been known for many years, but unfortunately, this knowledge is not widely applied in increasing production.

Yield issues are normally addressed by measures of soil fertility, agrochemicals, management of pests/diseases, and better field management practices. The scientific literature supporting the benefits of bee pollination for coffee is convincing. It may increase the yield of Robusta coffee up to 83% as per the data published by the Central Bee Research & Training Institute, Pune.

The majority of coffee species are diploid and self infertile and therefore have to be cross-pollinated by wind and insects for better yield whereas C.arabica is tetraploid, self-fertile and at times cleistogamous, so relies less on cross-pollination but it is observed that bee pollination, in general, enhances quantity and quality of yield. In many parts of the North Eastern Region, Robusta coffee variety is recommended due to climatic compulsions of low elevation and high temperature.

Managed pollinators, e.g. honeybees in the Coffee plantations in this region may be a change agent on increasing yield and produce honey as an additional income generating source for the upcoming tribal farmers. This is proved by one of the tribal coffee grower Sri W.D.Shira in Rongbilbangre village of West Garo Hills, Meghalaya through his practical experience without any scientific background knowledge as such.

History of Robusta coffee in India

Sri W. D.Shira, retired army personnel returned to his native village Rongbillbangre, which is about 16km from Tura town, with a vision of doing something which will be model for his poor villagers for development. He started plantation activity with Areca and Cashew nuts initially and later switched over to coffee plantation during 1997-98. Under the shade of Areca plantation, he planted both Arabica & Robusta varieties of coffee in 1.0 hectares of land.

The Coffee Board had also extended technical guidance and financial assistance to him. In due course of time, during 2003-04 he further extended this coffee area by adding another 1.5 hectares, planted with CXR variety, under the shade of various horticultural plants viz. Orange, Jackfruit, Pineapple, Citrus, Mango, Guava, etc. Presently he is holding 8.0 hectares of Robusta coffee area, of which 06.0hectare is in the bearing stage. Next to his plot 2.0-hectare area of coffee has been created by his wife which has a 1.0-hectare bearing area.

Robusta coffee beans

Last year, he attended a training program on beekeeping, arranged by one NGO, and acquired knowledge and started his apiary activity with ten bee boxes inside the coffee plantation. Mr Shira assembled the boxes by himself and Apisceranaindica, the bee species available locally was introduced. Observing the initial success, he is now planning to increase the number of bee boxes.

Wild bees or other pollinating insects were common in the coffee plantations raised by Mr Shira, due to the proximity to forest patches but there was a problem of uncertainty, resulting in delayed and less fruiting in earlier years and also leading to harvesting problems due to asynchronous ripening of berries thus affecting quality.

The present experience points out that the coffee plants in the beekeeping areas bloom together because of frequent visits of bees. The fruiting is more as bees are better pollinating agents. Unlike earlier years when unripe berries had to be discarded or used as inferior coffee, and required post-harvest sorting at extra labour cost, the planter is surprised to experience the harvesting of ripe berries at the same time.

The Robusta coffee planters in these areas never use any chemical fertilizer because of government restrictions as well as non-availability. As the soil of this plantation is in the earlier jhumarea, the fertility status is low, so the yield was comparatively less, but the present yield increased by about 50% which has surprised the grower. Inspired by the result, he intends to take up this effort of beekeeping inside coffee plantation vigorously so that the other coffee growers of the nearby areas can emulate him.

Thus beekeeping in coffee plantation improves yields in quantity and quality and may improve synchronicity and uniformity of fruit-set, reducing harvesting and sorting cost. This effort initiated by a small tribal farmer allows us to develop an integrated system of pollinator management by beekeeping to enhance coffee production in the NE Region through better, more synchronous pollination. This is also an effective step towards the production of organic Robusta coffee. This approach may indirectly influence in enhancing the production of other crops and honey.

Wooing India’s Taste Buds

Cafe Chains Enchanting India!

Coffee was synonymous with the south Indian ‘davara kaapi’ till the early ’90s. Few were aware of anything more than the south Indian filter coffee or instant coffee, till the cafe revolution took it by storm, today the country has cultivated a taste for every kind of coffee be it cappuccino or espresso or a latte, thanks to the homegrown pioneers that ushered in the revolution – Barista and Cafe Coffee Day.

The Cafe Chains could not have chosen a better time to have launched the cafes in India. The opening up of the economy nurtured entrepreneurship; IT Industry had taken a firm root in the country propelling the economy forward, disposable incomes were increasing and the quintessential ‘INDIAN’ was ready to indulge. Taking root in the Silicon city of India, the Cafe culture has now gradually permeated into the staunchest tea-drinking population of the north and the growing economy of the country only contributed to boosting the cafe business.

It is believed that “the robust growth of coffee consumption at 6%, way over the global average has beckoned both the Indian and the international chains to invest and take a risk with India.” Today, the organized café market in India is at $ 300 million and is likely to reach $1.1 billion, with a phenomenal growth percentage rate of 20% according to a report by consultancy firm Technopak Advisors.

The Indian populace is not only cost-conscious but also quirky and widely different from their international counterparts. For Indians hanging out in a cafe is more a lifestyle statement and choice rather than a habit. Today, the Cafe business in India is studded with homegrown and international cafes chains alike each adopting a different approach, varied target group, and multi-layered positioning to capture the market share and have a larger share in the pie.

Home Grown Brands

Cafe Coffee Day– the cafe retail venture of the Amalgamated Coffee Bean Co. Ltd. is by far the leader in the pack. True to the byline of the cafe – ‘A lot can happen over a cup of coffee’, a lot has happened since the brand started its first cafe in 1996 on Brigade Road in Bangalore. CCD which could arguably be stated as the Cafe that brought in the ‘Coffee cup totting culture’ to India now has about 1500 cafes in the country in Square and Lounge formats and expansion is definitely the agenda for the cafe chain.

CCD leveraged the first-mover advantage and has steadily expanded occupying strategic prime locations across the country. The growth never phased down, it rather increased its expansion by seeking investments from PE firms KKR and Co. LP, New Silk Route Partners LLC, and Standard Chartered Private Equity in 2010 who now have acquired a combined stake of over 30%.

The strategy of backward integration in terms of owning large coffee plantations and a furniture company to cater to the cafes’ decor is another added advantage. Though the company has not made any statements, reports in the market state that the company is gearing itself for an IPO listing. Mr. Ankur Bisen, Vice President, Technopak Advisors opines that the idea of an IPO may have been long brewing within the company while the current bullish market may have prompted it into action.

It would be difficult to unseat this homegrown leader from its top position for it has made a clear head start with numbers and location and it has wedged itself in the Indian psyche as many a youngster grew up with the variety that CCD offered.

Barista Lavazza – India’s second-largest cafe chain in terms of numbers, Barista a pioneer in the sector failed to take advantage of its early entry into the sector. The company quickly changed hands with different management and operational strategy within the first decade since it started in 2000. Initially funded by Turner-Morrison under the leadership of Ravi Deol, it was taken over by Tata Group for a brief period until Mr. C Sivasankaran’s Sterling Infotech Group acquired the company. In 2007, Italy’s favorite coffee brand Lavazza acquired all the businesses of Barista to make an entry into India.

Since then Lavazza Barista has taken efforts to consolidate the business and grow it. Today the group has about 163 cafes along with a very profitable coffee vending machine business under the banner Fresh and Honest. However, reports in the market indicate that the group is looking at divesting its interest in the cafe business while retaining the Fresh and Honest Brand.

International Entrants

Costa Coffee – A UK based chain, entered India through the franchise model with Devyani International, a part of RJ Corporation. The first of the cafes were opened in 2005 and after a slow cautious expansion, the chain has in the past couple of years expanded rapidly and now has about 100 cafes in the country. Reports indicate that Costa may end its exclusive franchise model with Devyani International and explore other partners.

Tata Starbucks – One of the largest Cafe chains in the World, one that is known to have made the morning coffee drinking regimen a religion for many Americans established its first store in 2013 and has expanded to about 45 stores in a short span of time.

Though a little late, Starbucks is entering India with a formidable partner, it has tied up with Tata Group, the largest integrated coffee company with a 50:50 partnership. Like Cafe Coffee Day, this formidable combination with Tata brings in the advantage of backend integration with Tata-owned coffee plantation and real estate.

Starbucks is known for rapidly adjusting its strategy to suit the local tastes as it demonstrated in China. Though it has a large international menu consistent with its other chains across the world, it has tweaked its menu to include paneer and kebab items to entice Indian palate.

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – A large privately held coffee and tea cafe chain based out of California – Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf entered the Indian Market in 2008 with Pan India Solutions a leading player in the organised restaurant and retail business. Pan India is known to run other popular chains across the country including Bombay Blue, Gelato Italiano, and Copper Chimney.

The chain has over 25 cafe outlets and functions both as company-operated outlets as well as a franchise model. The philosophy of the chain is to offer high-quality coffee to the Indian population and is poised to expand its presence across the country with an addition of ___ cafes.

Gloria Jean’s – Functioning through a franchise model, Australia’s premium cafe chain which has a presence in over 37 countries opened its cafes in India in 2008 with the Indian Partner Citymax Hospitality of Landmark Group. While the cafe chain expanded to 30 outlets, today it has reduced it to 23 across the country. Mr. Pankaj K. Neeraj, Head of Operations says that the group is attempting to relook at its operational strategy to increase profitability and consolidate the business.

Dunkin Donuts – Considered a rival of the coffee behemoth Starbucks in the USA, with enviable coffee sales of its own, Dunkin Donuts entered India ahead of its competitor. It entered India through a Master Franchise arrangement with Jubilant Foodworks, the company responsible for bringing Domino’s Pizza to India. Unlike in the US, the Indian management is focusing more on food rather than coffee and is aiming to offer the affordable eating option for the consumers.

Other formats

Food generates the major chunk of the revenues, while coffee has a prominent place in the menu and acts as a supplement to food in this format of cafes. Consumers in such cafes look at coffee only as an accompaniment to food. International chains Subway, Krispy Kreme McDonald’s and Au Bon Pain operate within this format while still aiming at the same consumer base. To suit the Indian taste, filter coffee has been made a part of the Krispy Kreme Menu which is very popular among consumers” – Mr. Pankaj K. Neeraj, Head of Operations, Citymax Hospitality of Landmark Group

Java Green, a Reliance venture operates in a unique format. It is located in Reliance World catering to its broadband and cellular customers; however, the chain is slowly expanding as stand-alone locations outside Reliance World.


While the country and especially the youth population is ‘gung ho’ about the cafes sprouting across the country; the sector is not without challenges.

Indians still look at cafes as a place to hang out, unlike the west where ‘coffee on the go’ and must have morning ‘coffee fix’ is the trend. The premium ambiance and the time spent in the cafe become as important as the food and beverage offerings. It becomes that much more challenging for the cafe chains to offer a premium experience with high-quality coffee without consistent sales volume and profits.

Trained and skilled manpower is a key component of the cafe business. In India, Barista as a profession is still not actively pursued. Most of the cafe chains follow the format of hire and train recruits to suit the required skill sets or poach trained manpower from other chains. With the emergence of a large number of cafes, the demand for a skilled workforce has increased ten-fold. Cafe Coffee Day seems to have found a solution with an in house training facility to man its stores though it is plagued by high levels of attrition.

Strategic premium locations are vital to successful cafes that come at an exorbitant price buoyed by the shooting real estate rates and such catchment areas have the presence of similar cafe chains adding to the woes of cafe chains.

Despite the challenges, the sector is poised to grow at a healthy rate of 10%, with an addition of approximately 2000 cafe outlets within a span of 5 years according to a recent report by Technopak. There is an increase in the number of cafe chains from different countries desiring a share in the pie of the cafe business including Di Bella and Testa Rossa. Demonstrating that India today indeed has the space for more number of cafes as the Indian taste buds are asking for more!

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?

Caffeine free Tea and coffee- the American way!


Angshuman Paul , Tea-entrepreneur & tea estate owner, Girish Chandra Tea Estate, A.C Paul Agricultural Company

Caffeine free tea






Caffeine free tea in India

You can bond with America in many ways (even obesity) but when it comes to a cup of tea or coffee, Americans are beckoned by the caffeine-free concept. In a couple of National Parks, caffeine-free coffee cafes are attracting huge audiences. It was a delight to be in the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in North Carolina and I enjoyed my first cup of caffeine free coffee in a nearby cafe. These coffees are sold by highlighting the eco-friendly concept. For someone who belongs to the tea-fraternity and understands the entire production process in and out, I frowned on how tea can be without caffeine? The hilarious part was that my host in North Carolina – Pinaki Dutta, who by birth is Indian – claims that herbal tea is caffeine free tea.

Interestingly, “white coffee” is made from orange blossom water and uses less quantity of coffee (but still I couldn’t make out how it could be caffeine-free). My initial indulgence with this so-called caffeine-free white coffee was after my long journey from the Luray Cavern and amidst the enticing coffee aromas in the snack bar. The evening couldn’t have been planned better. Back to work in Washington D.C I missed my white coffee and was mesmerized in the meditation centre of hotel Hilton, which welcomes you with a nice cup of caffeine free tea. A blend of American and Indian – some premium caffeine free tea blends, Indian mediation, and American branding – caffeine-free! Sounds heavenly indeed!

Herbal Tea

But if I keep the debate of feasibility of caffeine-free tea & coffee aside, then certain caffeine-free hot drinks are overwhelming. Here are a few of my recommendations. Herbal Tea – made perfectly from hibiscus, mint, or chamomile – are a delightful indulgence. Then caffeine-free coffee – Rooibos – is available in all departmental stores (some of them even sell with a Made in India tag). If you are guessing what is Rooibos, it’s a naturally sweet, woody, tobacco-flavoured beverage, making it a good alternative to coffee. I was also delighted to experience Ginger Honey Lemon Tea Tonic (as it uses extracts from tea), offered in Bern’s & Noble book store and perfect for chilly rainy days, and particularly soothing for sore throats. While I personally cherished these varieties due to the novelty factor, the Americans seem quite hooked to the ‘caffeine-free’ concept. As they say – different strokes for different folks!

Coffee Cultivation and Culture – Unique to India

Coffee has been cultivated in India since the 17th century and has become one of the prominent plantation crops in India.

The way India grows coffee is unique – under a canopy of different varieties of shade trees which ensures that the canopy of tree cover is always maintained. These shade trees ( usually in 2 tiers ) provide a unique microclimate that enables it to sustain a wide variety of flora & fauna. In fact, very few countries have this type of “shade tree microenvironment”. This biodiversity available in Indian coffee plantations is quite simply phenomenal and Indian Coffee scores high on all environmental friendly parameters, when compared to not only coffee, is grown in other countries but also across all other farming/ crop systems ( agricultural crops like paddy, wheat, cotton, sugarcane or other plantation crops like tea, areca nut, etc )

India is also unique in that both the varieties of coffee – Arabica & Robusta are grown. While our Arabica is used in high-quality blends in most of the very sophisticated markets like Germany, Italy & Belgium; our Robustas are considered as the best in the world! In fact, Indian washed Robustas command a substantial premium in the world market and is used in making the world-famous espressos and cappuccinos. 70 % of our coffees are exported and almost all are at a premium. This is again unique when compared to other products exported from India which is usually at a discount.

Coffee cultivation changed from being small family farms into organized plantations primarily during the British reign. Coffee plantations as we know today is a result of painstaking hard work and efforts put in by legendary planters of the 19th and early 20th century. After independence, the ownership gradually changed hands to Indian owners who continued in the tradition of maintaining well-managed plantations.

Since coffee plantations were located in remote areas and hilly terrain; the only means of socializing was the local Club which has led to the unique plantation culture seen till today. Local communities in the prime plantation districts take pride in their respective Clubs which are often the hub of all socio-economic activities.

In Karnataka which produces 70 % of India’s coffee; the 3 main coffee growing districts are Chikmagalur, Kodagu & Hassan. One visit to any of these districts will awe the casual visitor of the sheer greenness and tree canopy cover present everywhere. In fact on most mountain slopes it is not possible to make out that there is coffee grown over there; such is the amount of tree cover found in India! This coupled with the numerous water resources that are preserved by the planters truly makes coffee plantations a biodiversity wonder that maintains the ecological balance and harmony like no other farming/business model!