Can you convince a population of tea connoisseurs to fall in love with coffee? It’s no easy feat, but that’s exactly what Matt Chitharanjan, MA’08, is trying to do. Despite being the seventh-largest coffee producer in the world, Chitharanjan says, India exports the vast majority of its crops, and a widespread coffee culture has yet to take root nationwide. Chitharanjan and his wife Namrata Asthana hope to change this with
Blue Tokai Coffee, their new chain of roasteries-cum-cafés that sources its beans exclusively from local farms. A long-time coffee lover, Chitharanjan was disappointed by the dearth of options for a good cup of brew after his 2012 move from Chennai to Delhi. While some major international chains have made inroads to the Indian market, the most he could find was instant coffee grounds and stale, expensive imported beans. Moreover, he realized that there were no retailers showcasing the high-quality, single estate Arabica beans grown in the country’s southern coffee belt.
Seeing an opportunity, the couple used their savings and support from friends and family to purchase a roaster and began making contacts with farmers to find the best that they had to offer. Blue Tokai launched in 2013 as an e-commerce operation, and the response far exceeded expectations. Not only did individuals take an interest – both within India and abroad – but wholesalers began picking up their coffee to serve in restaurants and other commercial operations. Somewhat unexpectedly, Chitharanjan has also become something of a coffee educator, teaching customers used to instant coffee about the many ways in which it can be brewed and offering a selection of presses, grinders, and drip-pots for sale.
Blue Tokai has been so successful that, in 2015, they opened their first café in Delhi, and have since opened two more cafes in Delhi and a second roastery café in Bombay. Last November, Chitharanjan gave a presentation about his coffee venture to a group of UBC grads who were exploring India through the alumni UBC Travel Program.
Find out more information at www.bluetokaicoffee.com.