Blue Tokai, started by Matt Chitharanjan and his wife Namrata is a cozy little space with simple, cheerful interiors, known for its freshly brewed coffee from freshly roasted beans sourced from various farms across different regions in India.
For the longest time, India was predominantly a tea-drinking country. However, over the recent past, we have seen a rise in the number of coffee drinkers. Let’s admit it! Coffee is surely cooler, sexier and a great conversation starter than tea. You will always hear people say ‘let’s catch up over a cuppa coffee’ than ‘let’s catch up over a cuppa tea’. So if you’re a coffee lover or a caffeine junkie, there’s a roastery at the rear end of a mill compound in Mahalaxmi that’s waiting to welcome you.
Blue Tokai, started by Matt Chitharanjan and his wife Namrata is a cozy little space with simple, cheerful interiors, minimalistic furniture and large glass panes bifurcating the roastery and café space located in Laxmi Mills compound. After making waves in Delhi about four and a half years ago, this roastery-cum-café opened doors to aamchi Mumbai with their second outlet, last year. Think freshly brewed coffee from freshly roasted beans – Yep! That’s exactly what this tiny space is known for.
Initially, Matt and his wife lived in Chennai where they came across coffee houses offering freshly ground coffee. But ever since they moved to Delhi, they were disappointed with the quality of coffee available – either it was stale or imported from various other places like Japan, Australia and UK that made it overly expensive due to import duty. Every place they visited up North, they found several national and international chains dominating the market by focusing on providing a nice café experience rather than serving good coffee. Being a coffee enthusiast himself, Matt travelled down south, interacted with various farmers and decided to take it upon himself to bring about a change in the country’s coffee culture. He decided to connect Indians to their farmers by making superior quality coffee himself. After several trips and convincing sessions, he successfully purchased green beans from local farmers and started roasting them at home with the help of a roaster. Soon, he started selling them online and received a great response for the same. In no time, they opened a café in Delhi and people knew where they could find real coffee.
We all love a good cup of coffee, once in a while, if not everyday. But most of the time, the coffee we start our day with, isn’t even fresh. Every coffee has a shelf life and should be consumed within that time period. Also, it’s not only about mixing the powder with milk and sugar or water, there’s a lot more to it than that. The quality and taste differs from place to place, depending upon how and where it is grown. So different terrains give you different varietals. For e.g. one farm can give you notes of cherry while another can give you notes of chocolate. At Blue Tokai, unlike commercial coffee where all estates get mixed together, they do single estate coffees, which means each of their coffees is sourced from a particular farm. After tasting a range of coffees from various farms across different regions in India, they source from Attikan, Baarbara, Bynemara Estates, Bibi Plantation, Biccode, Kalledeverapura, Karadykan, Nachammai, M.S and Yellikodige Estates. When you step in, you’ll see a board that states which coffee is available for the day.
Once they receive the coffee, they roast the beans at their café (which btw can be seen by anyone who walks in) and develop different profiles for each one. Each profile has a different characteristic that brings out a unique flavor to the coffee. It is very important to stay focused while developing a profile as a minute more or a color darker can make a world of a difference to the flavor. It should be a perfect balance of flavors and acidity. This cozy café currently whips up several different brews with the help of continuous sample roasts. Once they find the desired profile, they keep roasting to that profile only in order to maintain consistency in quality. In order to provide the freshest possible coffee, they roast every Wednesday & Sunday and dispatch orders the following day.
In the recent past, we have seen so many entrepreneurial ventures in the coffee industry where companies are directly sourcing coffee beans from the farms, roasting them and selling them online or on the shelves of retail stores. Their aim is to make the customer buy a bag of coffee and switch from instant to a more brooding variety. India has predominantly been a tea-drinking country, with coffee restricted to filter coffee, atleast down south. So the idea of brewing a cup seems rather tedious and overwhelming. Most people are not even aware about the different brewing methods. Each method gives out different flavors. For e.g. French-press coffee has a medium body with intense aroma and flavor whereas a Moka Pot is bold, almost similar to an espresso. Pour-over coffee, on the other hand, has a lighter body as the paper filter removes all coffee particles and oils, thus giving it a cleaner flavor. And if you’re a filter coffee loyalist, then Aeropress is your best bet.
At Blue Tokai, a customer can watch the entire process of roasting, sample various coffees and then select something that suits their palate. The day I visited, the café was serving coffees from Nachammai Estate, Bibi Plantation and Attikan Estate. I opted for the lightly roasted Nachammai coffee that was freshly brewed using the pour-over method. I was also intrigued to try their Nitro coffee (iced coffee infused with Nitrogen) that is currently available on tap only at this café. Cold-brewed for 20 hours, it was fruity and chocolaty with a creamy mouth feel and an after taste that lasted long after it was over. Since they don’t have an in-house kitchen, they have a limited food menu consisting of croissants, pain au chocolats, sandwiches and custard cruffins from The Magazine Street Kitchen, from the folks behind The Table.
Apart from sampling different types of coffees, I got to learn so much from the experts at Blue Tokai. It indeed was an enriching experience as I got a different insight into the world of coffee. For me, a good cuppa coffee has always been the one that evokes all the five senses. And for Matt, a good coffee is the one that his customer likes!