16th Anniversary Special: An homage to Chennai’s coffee revolution

From the good ol’ days of a simple cold coffee to menus with in-house roasts, single-origin coffees and artisanal blends
Coffee from Kup Coffee Roasters
Coffee from Kup Coffee Roasters

There was a time, not too long ago, when a trip to Coffee Day was the epitome of cool. Remember those days? Frappes with chocolate were dearly beloved, franchises were king and friends ditched class to ‘hang out’ every single day because, as we were told, ‘a lot can happen over coffee’.

That ad campaign might have been hinting at romance but its writers probably underestimated just how true those words would ring a couple of decades later. And we don’t mean with a significant other, we mean with a significant cuppa... In 2023, Chennai is abuzz with coffee spots that boast of all kinds of nuance and novelty — from menus crafted exclusively with single-origin coffees from South America and India like at Kup in Nungambakkam to having your waiter deliver your brew with a 3D printed photograph atop the white foam, courtesy The Bistrog raph, India’s first-ever photography-themed café that opened in Chennai earlier this year.

Owner Hari Subhash is quick to specify that you could get your photo printed on a filter kaapi, instead of their signature red velvet brew, if you so prefer. We appreciate this merging of tradition and innovation, in a time where beans are being celebrated from native regions like Coorg and Chikkamagaluru with the same fervour as say, Costa Rica.

Small batch , fresh roasts are also very much in demand. Perhaps why, Beachville, the city’s first roastery café, which opened its doors back in 2018, quickly became a crowd-puller. Owner Divya Jayashankar, tells us that Chennai’s evolving culture can be credited to the fast-evolving customer. She says, “People want two things at different points in time — convenient access to great coffee and experiences.”

We ask her what she means by the latter. And she elaborates, “When in the café, customers want the sort of experience they wouldn’t be able to pull together at home — beverages and food that look and taste like MasterChef creations, or events curated by experienced coffee roasters and baristas that provide them with new insights they can’t get from the Internet.” Cue their Iced Rose Milk Latte that has now become a crowd favourite.

With more customers willing to spend on tailored coffee experiences, food and beverage, consultants and coffee connoisseurs will tell you that the capital for a ‘simple’ coffee counter can cost you as much as a BMW. Don’t believe us? Viggnesh V, a consultant who has curated coffee menus for brands like The Farm, Davrah Coffee and more recently, The Tuscan Table in RA Puram, breaks it down for us.

 “Nowadays, the set up involves a roaster, grinder, espresso machine, cold drip makers and nitrogen kegs for those popular nitro coffees — and all of that is often sourced from vendors in Europe for top-of-the-line equipment.

We’re talking `75 lakh to a crore, easy.” And this is not even including the cost of an experienced barista who knows how to handle all this equipment! Whiskey aged barrels of yes, coffee, and ‘craft coffees’ inspired by classic cocktails (but with z ero alcohol) is also a trend, which is steadily on the rise.

Jivesh Goenka, who owns Kup Coffee Roasters, an artisanal coffee bar in Nungambakkam, tells us that one of their hottest seller is a Negroni, brewed for 18 hours with Valencia oranges and inhouse fer mented bitters. We gave it a taste and now we know why. Smooth with that heady hit of citrus, coffee mocktails are brewing change with a depth of flavour that you need to taste to believe.

Related Stories

No stories found.