DRINK DELICIOUS INDIAN COFFEE AT KOINONIA COFFEE ROASTERS
Koinonia Coffee Roasters is a roastery and café in Khar sources its beans from local Indian farms. They use Arabica beans, which are roasted twice a week, packaged, and then sent to various clients across the country. The café itself is open to the public daily.
Koinonia Coffee Roasters, 66, Chuim Village Road, Off BR Ambedkar Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 052. Phone: 096196 82668
Picture the scene:
Sunday morning and you’re on a lazy walk from Perry Road up through Pali Hill. You crisscross and pop west to see the sea, zigzag and drop east to Union Park. You meander through Chuim Village. Goats bask in the sun, and free running chickens perform poultry parkour. You swing south and head towards Ambedkar Road. You walk past a coffee shop; it reminds you of the ones you know in Hackney, London. You think nothing of it and take a few more paces. Then you stop, back up, and turn around. You stare at the black exterior with bold white typography. You run that sentence through your head again: It looks like one of those coffee shops from Hackney. You push the door open, obviously.
Now picture this:
You’re inside this coffee shop, and a French man called Clement talks to you about roasting coffee. With his sexy French accent he shows you his massive roaster (well hello there!). A serene man named Sagar makes you a flat white (a flat white!). You sip the coffee, and it’s good. Really good. Clement tells you that all the beans are sourced from Indian farms. You almost fall off your stool. You almost produce a stool, in fact. Clement tells you that he only moved here, with his wife and children, just seven months ago after deciding to join two native Bandra boys, Shannon and Sid, in this coffee adventure. Clement had only previously visited India once, for one week. You finish your coffee and eat a biscuit baked by Clement’s wife. You think, everyone needs to know about this place.
Koinonia, based in a former seamstress building is, first and foremost, a coffee roastery. Their German-brand Probat roaster is the first to be built in India and sits proudly behind the barista station. Germans make good things (apart from Volkswagens with dodgy emissions and food that isn’t bread). Beans are roasted twice a week, packaged and then sent to various clients across the country. The café itself is open to the public seven days a week.
Over a few cups with fellow City Storyist Genesia Alves, I chatted to Shannon, Koinonia’s loquacious coffee zealot, who explained a whole host of things about Indian coffee I had absolutely no idea about.
So here are 10 Things I Learned About Indian Coffee.
- Until the mid 1990s, the Indian Government forced coffee farmers to sell to the Government only. Coffee was considered Government property. The Government used to auction off the coffee in Bangalore. It was rarely exported, unlike Ethiopian or Colombian coffee. The farmers didn’t really make too much money. The Government had a capital G during this whole period.
- Shannon’s uncle has plantation in Chikmagalur. They export 25-30 tonnes of coffee every year to… Australia. Shannon grew up partly in Australia. These two things are related. Kind of. Well, I mean, he has a lilting, rhapsodic Australian accent, which I didn’t know could exist. I do now.
- Every country has it’s own way of doing coffee. Australians love a flat white, Americans do drip coffee, Japan has a “pour over” method, and Italians have the espresso. South Indian filter coffee style evolved because espresso machines and other filtration techniques were too expensive or weren’t available. Also, most of the coffee beans that are mainly grown in South India are Robusta which is very strong and very bitter. That’s why South Indian filter coffee is stuffed with milk and sugar. Koinonia use Arabica beans, which are a bit lighter. Robusta has a higher yield and is less susceptible to pests; it contains more caffeine (hence more bitter). But you want the best stuff, don’t you, Bandra? Of course you do, otherwise you’d live elsewhere.
- Coffee starts to smell good when you grind it. The roasting process isn’t all that aromatic. Coffee is only fresh 15-21 days after roast. You can tell how fresh coffee is when you pour hot water over the ground beans and it mushrooms, rises up. That’s all the carbon dioxide from the bean. Koinonia coffee balloons like an atomic bomb. Which makes it fresher than Will Smith’s brand new chuddies.
- Tata partnered with Starbucks a while back to supply the Seattle corporation with coffee beans from Asia. Starbucks now has stores in India thanks to a 50:50 partnership with Tata branded Starbucks, a Tata Alliance.
- Starbucks actually did Koinonia a favour two ways. Firstly, they have helped foster coffee appreciation in India. Secondly they've encouraged a higher price point for coffee. Koinonia sits in the middle of Café Coffee Day and Starbucks in terms of money you spend on a cup.
- Coffee imported to India has 110-120 per cent duty. So really, if you’re drinking imported coffee, you're paying the Government 100 bucks a cup. Hey, it’s just like the old days in Bangalore! With Koinonia, their coffee comes exclusively from Indian farmers, and all from Indian farms. Jai hind!
- A regular customer, Alex, says, “this is the best coffee in Mumbai” as he buys his take away drip coffee before heading to his office. Alex is a trustworthy name; he’s a stand up guy. He is American though, but we can all put that aside for a minute.
- Shannon, Sid and Clement visit their farmers regularly. Some people (i.e. yours truly) would call this a holiday to Tamil Nadu. These three amigos call it work. This connection to the source is vital for Koinonia, as Shannon says it encourages the farmers to produce better coffee and with more care. The farmer influences the taste of the coffee. When the people buying your coffee directly are visiting and telling you how much their customers love it, of course you’ll be more proud of your produce. I wish I could tell the guy who grows the figs I buy in Pali market that his figs are the nuts. But that might confuse him.
- The Koinonia coffee is first rate, make no mistake. The café only opened at the end of January. The people behind this enterprise are the real deal. I’ve heard people talk about coffee before – usually boring hipsters in London whose personality left their body shortly after puberty – but Shannon and Clement are both captivating. And you know, with caffeine and everything, I can get a little ADHD after the fourth cup, so holding my attention for that long is tougher than Rajinikanth’s toughest tough guy.
If the future of Indian coffee is in the hands of Koinonia and their affiliates, it’s going to be a very bright one. Put that in your Probat and roast it.
Photographs by Meghna Gupta