Would you take us through your journey and tell us how it all began?
My husband and I started Coffee Mechanics with a humble intention to make quality coffee available to customers at an affordable price while making coffee farming sustainable. Coffee Mechanics started in our house. It started in our living room, then our dining room later moved to our garage and eventually relocated to the tasting room. We began experimenting with a small roaster imported from Taiwan to measure the difference in the quality of each processing and roast variations. We became eager to find out why India wasn’t recognized in the coffee world even though it is one of the largest countries to grow biodiverse shade grown Arabica. And so, we bought coffee and brewing equipment from all around the world in order to understand the difference between Indian and international coffee.
Initially, it took us a while to learn how to roast coffee but now we primarily deal with premium coffee. It has been a slow but intentional and enriching journey. It taught us that the world of coffee is boundless, and we had just begun to scrape the surface. We learned that coffee can often be fragile. A lot can go wrong in each stage. The finest beans won’t amount to much unless you roast and brew them with the attention they deserve. This is why we cover every step of the process, endorsing a ‘farm to cup’ model. We grow, roast and brew in-house so that we can monitor and control the quality of our coffee. In addition, we educate our customers about the same.
For as long as we can remember, Southern India has been known for its filter coffee. What was your experience with adapting to specialty coffee like?
South India has been a mixed market for us. Not very many people have access to pure coffee since the area is largely dominated by chicory. We believe that it is important to cater to the individual palate of coffee lovers. Therefore, we don’t restrict specialty coffee to only black coffee. When it comes to milk coffee, it’s about striking the right balance in the aroma, body, and flavors. And so, we’ve committed to informing our consumers that flavors in their cup of filter coffee can be enhanced with pure and fresh coffee. It is a slow process but rewarding process.
Would you tell us about your personal love affair with coffee?
Both Pavan and I grew up on coffee plantations. Our love and curiosity for coffee began on the farm and it kept growing since then. We were only kids when we harvested coffee for pocket money. We were responsible for drip-irrigation and de-weeding during our holidays. Coffee has always been a part of our lives and we cherish the memories from those years. Growing up in southern India, we were only served milk coffee at home. I started drinking coffee only after I discovered black coffee. Pavan, on the other hand, is a huge coffee enthusiast and needs the perfect shot of South Indian pure coffee in the morning, followed by many more through the day.
Our interest in coffee continued to grow, and in turn, so did our knowledge about it. We learned that the way we grow coffee determines its quality, processing it can bring out the maximum nuances and that roasting beans with precision can make the best beans come to life. We explored diverse brewing techniques, too. Eventually, we turned our house into a coffee lab!
I believe you had to quit your job to follow your passion for coffee. Could you tell us about the transition?
I worked in the advertising and branding industry for 8 years before I decided to quit. It was a hard decision because we were trying something new and were unsure about how it would be received. It’s been two and a half years since then, and our journey ahead looks extremely optimistic.
The initial days of the transition involved trying to figure out where to start and taking courses on quality coffee and tasting. But, most of our training was under the guidance of my father, Prabhakar H.R and my father-in-law, H.B Balraj and involved learning techniques handed down by several generations on the farm. I knew there were no shortcuts to what we were doing and so, we valued advice from specialists in the field. We read countless books even though they initially didn’t make sense, we also did some experiments which were occasionally chaotic. During the first year as I attempted to learn how to roast, my father generously gave me three bags of coffee to experiment with. That’s where the learning began! Pavan was still working as an engineer at Bosch, at the time, but still made time to support me and effect tasting of all the coffee I roasted. When we ready to launch our coffee in the market, he decided to quit his job, too.
What is one thing that keeps you going?
Coffee is an evolving process. Just when we think we have figured it out, the next crop comes in. Then we must understand the crop and figure out the process and roasting all over again. It’s an industry for those who have the patience to keep exploring. That’s what keeps us going and also guarantees an exciting journey.
What is a coffee trend that you wish would die out already?
Kopi Luwak and artificially flavored coffee.
Apart from Coffee Mechanics, who serves your favorite cup of coffee in the city?
India Coffee House- Pure coffee.
A piece of advice for young entrepreneurs entering the coffee industry?
Build a strong foundation by spending your energy, time and money on learning all that you need to. Everything else will fall into place.
A message to other roasters in India?
This is just the beginning for all of us, and we have a long way to go. As we succeed, may we be proud of quality Indian coffee and continue to hold it high in the market worldwide.