How the Internet Is Changing Coffee Culture in India

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It all starts with a craving for coffee – and Instagram is the next step. It turns out that Instagram is actually a great place to find a good cup of coffee, which you’ll come across while searching for #latteart.

That’s where you’ll find coffee startups like Sleepy Owl Coffee, Blue Tokai, and more.Their digital presence is very conscious about how pictures and videos look, and makes full use of the power of networks like Instagram.

We ordered a box of Sleepy Owl’s cold brew coffee online. What we didn’t realise that is it takes 24-48hours to deliver. While we were getting over the dismay this caused, we wondered, who calls their coffee startup ‘Sleepy Owl’?

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“We call ourselves Sleepy Owl because it is an oxymoron,” says Armaan Sood, an ex-lawyer and one of the founders of the Sleepy Owl. “Essentially, people associate coffee with staying awake at night but that’s when you’re feeling sleepy and you want to be awake, so the caffeine has to stay awake and all of the buzz that stays awake at night so that’s the reason why we call it as Sleepy Owl.”

Although we still need more coffee to make that answer work, we’re willing to accept it because the Sleepy Owl coffee was quite yum.

Cold brew coffee is a relatively new concept, not just in India, but also globally.

 

“Interestingly, whatever is trending for coffee in terms of method of extraction or brew methods, it picks up immediately in India, again because of the Internet and the kind of information that’s available,” says Abhijit Shetty, who along with his brother Advith runs Seven Beans Coffee Company in Bengaluru. The company is an enterprise between Indian coffee farmers and Italian roasters.

“So for example, trends like bulletproof coffee or the more recent one, the cold brews or nitro brewed, these trends are immediately picked up in India because there is a greater awareness of coffee among the Indian consumers,” he says.

“There is similarity or commonality through art and design in coffee,” says Shetty. “The people need to be inspired in terms of when art and design are concerned; I think it is very similar in terms of where coffee is concerned.”

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Shetty adds that the Internet has made a tea-drinking nation like India more coffee aware, and provided an outlet for many coffee startups to reach an audience they would otherwise miss.

These companies source their coffee from places like Chikmagalur and then, roast or brew their coffees and sell it on their websites, and on Amazon, and Flipkart.

Blue Tokai and Sleepy Owl agree that they wouldn’t have been able to launch a coffee startup without the Internet.

“[Had] Blue Tokai started six years or seven years ago, I think we would have failed,” says Matt Chittaranjan, co-founder, Blue Tokai. “There had to be enough penetration… people used to ordering online, and luckily when we started that had happened already.”

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Advith Shetty (L) and Abhijit of Seven Beans Coffee

 

Sood, from Sleepy Owl, says something similar. “When we started out, our intention was to serve the B2B market,” he explains. “I serve my interesting cold brew coffee to a restaurant or a cafe, and a consumer can reach there and order it off their menu.”

“That didn’t work out because you know, it’s challenging for a brand to become a brand if you’re doing only B2B,” he adds. “But B2C, for people to order coffee directly from us, we felt the only way to do that was to be on the Internet, use social media to our advantage, get people to see our product through very strong visual communication, and now we’re doing coffee all over Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida.”

That said, an offline presence is also an essential part of the equation.

“I think it is very difficult to convince people about what’s different about our coffee purely through a website,” adds Chittaranjan. “So having physical locations where people can come in and taste the coffee, interact with the baristas, see the roasting happening helps a lot in converting people over to appreciating better quality coffee.”





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