In an e-mail interview with Namrata Asthana, Co-founder of Blue Tokai, she spoke about how Blue Tokai grown from 1 kilogram coffee roasting machine to 12 Kilograms of Probat machines, the growth of single-origin artisanal coffee market and Blue Tokai’s expansion plans across the country.
Could you please brief me your journey and the roadblocks you encountered while establishing your brand?
When we started coffee roasting in 2013, we had a small 1 kg machine that had us roasting for twelve to fourteen hours straight on most nights because of how small it was. Though we have grown, both, the size of the roasters (we now roast on two 12 kilograms Probat machines) and the team, we continue to spend as much time, energy and resources on constantly pushing our roasting quality forward.
We currently have 22 cafes across India and will be starting 10 more this year. We also have roasteries and coffee training centres in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. The biggest challenge for us initially had to do with logistics. It is still a challenge that we face since we work with courier partners and can't control that aspect of our customer's experience. Additionally, the Indian market was, and still is, very comfortable drinking instant coffee. Although it has been difficult to tap into the instant coffee market, our customer base has been very experimental. We stress the importance of freshly roasted coffee that is devoid of any preservatives and artificial flavours and have also introduced the Channi method which is a way to brew our coffee at home without having to invest in any equipment but rather with the help of a tea strainer.
In your opinion how the consumption pattern of coffee has taken a different path today in India? Why do you think is happening?
We think there is an immense growth opportunity for artisanal coffee in India as a lot of the coffee produced here can share the same stage as coffee produced in other parts of the world. We started Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters six years ago when we were looking for high quality Indian grown Arabica that was freshly roasted. We couldn't find anything around us and since Matt had roasted coffee in the US before, we decided to visit coffee farms and get some coffee to sample roast ourselves. We were a bit tired of getting Indian coffee that had been roasted months ago or imported coffee that was extremely expensive due to the import duty.
Since then there's been a rise in appreciation for single - origin and artisanal coffee. Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters started with the goal to highlight Indian coffee by getting it directly from the farm and delivering it to our customers. Currently, the coffee landscape in India features many more roasters and a far wider range of choices for coffee consumers in India.
What are the different brewing techniques you use?
We use various brewing techniques at our cafes and also offer coffee classes for customers to learn and find their favourite brewing technique. We have also realised that choosing coffees or brewing equipment that is the right match for our customers can be tough. To make this process easy, fun and stress-free, we have introduced our Coffee Play Bars in our Saidulajab, Bangalore and Jaipur cafes. As the name suggests, these bars are for our customers to play around with coffee equipment, grinds and roasts to make a choice that's perfect for them.
How do you differentiate your product from others?
The USP of our brand is to share as much information as possible with our customers. This is essential to us because we have an education and awareness component to our business. A part of this we are constantly promoting transparency and traceability whether it has to do with sharing information about our farms or encouraging customers to play around with various brewing equipment at our Coffee Play Bars to see what works best for them.
We conduct trainings in brewing and roasting and also provide an annual Farm Tour, and customers are always welcome to talk to our baristas about any of their brewing questions, or to participate in a roastery Tours to learn more about our roasting process.
How sustainable is the coffee industry today in India?
Most of the India coffee brands are taking the sustainable route in their operations but since India as a market is still learning and adapting to the eco-friendly way, we still have a long way to go.
What is the road ahead for Blue Tokai?
We’ll be opening up a number of new cafes in our existing markets as well as layering on technology to our existing café operations which will improve the customer experience, and quality and consistency of our products.