Trek Magazine - - Bitter Pill -

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 at­tokaicof­

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