Carnatic musician Akshay Vaidyanathan, who runs artisanal coffee roasting business kapi kottai, shares his story
Music offers a sensory experience that elevates your spirit — as does a good ol’ cup of coffee
Music offers a sensory experience that elevates your spirit — as does a good ol’ cup of coffee. Now, if you are a music lover and a coffee aficionado, imagine the heady rush that comes from savouring the two together. Akshay Vaidyanathan, a Carnatic musician who runs kapi kottai, an artisanal coffee roasting business, experiences both highs frequently. “As a specialty coffee roaster, I have to do a lot of coffee cupping — where we taste and minutely evaluate the quality of coffee samples — and I hyperfocus on all the different elements that come up when we add hot water to make the brew. If the coffee interests me, instantaneously, a raagam forms in my head,” he articulates.
Flavours of feelings
Flavours in a coffee create a certain mood akin to the effect a raagam in a Carnatic musical composition produces. Akshay, who is a Chitravina player, details, “If the coffee that I am tasting has fruity notes, then I start humming a number with a raagam on the Harikhamboji scale, which to me, as an artist, feels very light and fruity. Some of the sweetest melodies in Carnatic music are from this scale,” he says.
Some raagams are sharp, which suit tangy coffees, Akshay describes, while adding that Natakurinji, is a pleasant, easy-on-the-ears raagam. Akshay adds that Natakurinji is a coffee that is processed while being dried in the fruit, so it naturally lends itself to a fruity flavour. Citrusy coffee conjures tones from the Kalyani, AmritaVarshini, HamirKalyani raagams, the 30-year-old adds.
Today, Chennai has many specialty coffee roasteries engaged in a quest to take the coffee experience a notch higher; making it imperative to have a distinctive touch. To stand out amid competition, Akshay thought of blending the “constant cross talk in his head”, between music and coffee, in his business, too.
The label currently has three raagam-named coffees — HamirKalyani, Natakurinji, and Bhushavali, with two more in the pipeline. Akshay says, “I’m bringing out QR codes on the packs to connect buyers to a playlist of my performances of compositions that match the particular raagam.”
As the intricate framework in classical music is not well-known, his Instagram posts kindle curiosity about the raagam. Akshay is attempting to give these niche activities a wider reach. “People are actually approaching me to know more. I’m reading up on raagams to answer questions on the connection between raagam Natakurinji’s etymology and kurinji flower, for instance,” he says.
Quality is the singular motto that the specialty coffee industry lives by, which is evident when one browses the kapi kottai Instagram feed. The posts describe the pains taken in sourcing, processing, and roasting the coffee. For the HamirKalyani roast, the beans were sourced from Chikmagalur’s Gunegiri estate (located at an altitude of 1,350 metres above sea level).
Clearly, providing quality coffee alone isn’t enough of an experience now – buying the custom pack, and smelling the aroma of the roasted coffee after opening the pack, while preparing a brew to the background of some fine melodies, too, helps heighten the feeling of pleasure in drinkers.
Order your pack at www.kapikottai.coffee or visit Instagram: @kapikottai