"Maa anukune vallu, mana anukune manushulu"- The people who think of us as their own, and the people we think of as our own. It is one of the things that dropped into my mind while I was talking to Mr Rajendra from LetsKauphy. Here's a small attempt at discussing where their tale began and where it continues to lead him.
He is based out of Vijayawada in an area famous for stores filled with industrial and mechanical tool stores, big and small. When you first walk into the space where he works his wand, you're pleasantly greeted by a roasting machine made in-house, a logbook, various bags of coffee beans and a walking library of experiences and stories.
Where do you think your journey started?
My first step towards this journey started in 2008 when a culmination of experimentation, love and luck had me move to Anakapalli. I would work on a different product regarding technology for drying fish which I would repurpose the same for drying coffee fruits later. What that did was find my first product of coffee- Green beans. I went to the India International Coffee Festival of the coming year with it and gain some more insights into how my coffee is and how my coffee could be better. Given it was 2009 and the Speciality coffee scene was in its infancy, leaving out sales there weren't actual people present to hear what we had to say. I continued to gain some experience in the fields bringing people together and forming groups where we could educate them and they would give us insights into what their realities looked like. I slowed down at a point to move to Vijayawada and find some sense of stability but I always knew I would go there again.
In 2015, the bug reemerged and the market had slowly begun maturing, there was a sense of discussion in the sense of people trying to know what Robusta and Arabica were, thanks to Blue Tokai and Indian Bean. I tried my luck on social media and it did bring me in touch with a few more enthusiasts through coffee collectives and groups. Having a set of subscribers took some time, but I'm glad I have them.
How do you mitigate around tasting notes?
The roasting method we use doesn't involve contact, that is one of our MSPs. The beans are roasted in a convection system made in-house. Again, we learn what intrigues us. This method allows me to roast the beans with precision, due to which the chaff is carefully removed before it gets incinerated into dust.
What was the process behind naming in LetsKauphy?
To begin with, "Kauphy" is a callback to one of the classic jokes written by Jandhyala. The director is someone a lot of people including me, looked up to.
"Dhimsa" is a tribal dance form that celebrates camaraderie, it is a dance of the hills in a sense. You should definitely watch a YouTube video or two. It is a tribute to the Adivasis of LetsKauphy.
"Vanavasi" is a reference to the wilderness that is exuberant in this blend. It's a blend of washed arabica, unwashed robusta and peaberries. The coffee has a punchy texture to go with wilderness.
"Qahwa" is a particular blend with spices, it is a treat for someone who'd love to expand their caffeine-fueled horizons. I've curated this with the idea of an Indian taste palette in mind, the force is with this one.
Civet Coffees and monkey parchment coffee lots, what's the ideology behind these coffees?
I truly believe monkeys have an innate sense of when the fruit is perfectly ripe for devouring. Trusting the monkey's olfactory system over humans' here, because sometimes they eat the whole fruit and sometimes they spit the beans out. And that's what separates these two kinds of coffees.
The idea behind parchment coffee is that a wild monkey gathers a lot of fruits, stuffs them in its cheek pouches, runs away to somewhere it perceives safe and then proceeds to ingest them. In the meantime, the fruits get exposed to the enzymes in the monke's mouth. These enzymes convert the starches to simple sugars. There's a joy to picking these beans from the ground because sometimes these beans are so perfect you cannot stop yourself from beaming a smile.
Taste profiles develop depth when they are fermented, and in this particular case, they ferment in the gut. The profile that it develops is smooth because monkey doesn't just eat coffee beans to survive, it eats various fruits, berries and the buffet it can choose among. There's the element of smoothness at the end product, all the credit goes to this randomness that is monkey's everyday life. After digesting everything, they drop the civets wherever they feel like. These droppings are then collected carefully, it is a hassle to find these as well. But it sure is a satisfying journey to the end of the cycle.
What is hindering the coffee industry according to you?
The specifics. A pour-over is a simple technique that doesn't look intimidating according to me. I believe the coffee industry is subconsciously obsessed with tasting notes and trying to complicate a simple extraction technique with timers, temperatures and grind sizes. It sounds great to a person who works with coffee the way we do, but a simple customer who just wants to have better coffee is overwhelmed with the kind of information this is.
What's ahead for LetsKauphy?
Kusalavudu and Anasuya are some of the farmers I've met when my interest peaked in 2008. I've worked with them and their coffee for a long time now. I think it's high time that they get some representation in this world of coffee connoisseurs.
"Coffee of Kusalavudu" and "Coffee of Anasuya" are a vote of thanks for every farmer out there, working patiently and tirelessly to serve our coffee riddled imaginations.
- Mani Varna from Wobh