All perked up: How Third Wave Coffee Roasters created a micro-community of coffee lovers in Bengaluru
If you could sip on a cup of Lavender and Rosemary Sea Salt Mocha and enjoy the flavours of golden chocolate laced with herb-infused sea salt or inhale the aroma of Turkish cappuccino sprinkled with freshly ground cardamom, you would be in Third Wave Coffee Roasters, the premium artisanal coffee brand in the heart of Bengaluru.
From exotic Vietnamese Shakerato that blends cinnamon with condensed milk to La Vie En Rose, the coffee that combines the delicate notes of rose water with organic honey and cardamom, the different types of Third Wave coffee specials at their outlet will leave you intrigued, and delightfully satiated.
Third Wave Coffee Roasters, which was launched in2016, has been making locally sourced specialty coffee more accessible in India.
Currently serving at many locations across Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune, the brand is known for its intricately designed spaces fostering local communities that understand and appreciate specialty coffee. The offerings range from the classics to handcrafted manual brews and a host of curated beverages paired with a meticulously designed food menu.
In an interaction with Sushant Goel, one of the Co-Founders of Third Wave, who works closely with the other Co-founders, Ayush Bathwal and Anirudh Sharma, the entrepreneur spoke about his career and his work in the coffee business...
How it all began
The founders of Third Wave did not have a background in coffee when they launched the business; it was their love for the brew that got them started.
"Before Third Wave, I ran my own data analytics firm and before that, I used to work with McKinsey & Co in the US,” Sushant says. “Different people have different reasons for launching a startup. Some do it for the passion, some for the money, and some for the challenge of starting something new. For me, it was a blend of all of the above. I actually got started by accident. My love affair with the business started with the first cafe in Koramangala and the community of regular patrons that started to build over time.”
Third Wave Coffee Roasters contacts farmers from different estates in India during the harvest season to acquire various samples of coffee beans. According to Sushant, coffee tastes best when it’s freshest, which is why they roast the beans themselves. “Nothing tastes better than freshly roasted coffee. The quality of the beans lies primarily in the hands of the roaster,” he explains.
Today, they are known for the impeccable quality of their coffee.
“We started our first cafe in Koramangala in 2016, after spending a year dedicated to research and figuring out what kind of business we wanted to launch,” Sushant says.
A coffee community
The first few months were difficult because there weren’t many customers at their outlet, but Sushant and the other founders focused on giving each customer a great experience.
“One of the greatest things about Third Wave is the community that started to develop around it. As a result of this, word about our coffee and our spaces started to spread, and people started coming in without us having to rely too much on conventional marketing strategies,” he says.
India is a diverse country with diverse people and tastes, Sushant says.
“In a country where instant and filter coffee with milk and sugar is very popular, the cappuccino is the most popular modern coffee drink. This is probably because people know what they’re getting when they order a cappuccino. But a great cup of freshly brewed black coffee can have so many different flavours that most people don’t even know about. Coffee should be anything but bitter and this is a notion that deserves to be changed.”
Third Wave is always trying to create new flavours and experiences that people will love. They spend quite some time looking at new trends in the market and what other brands are doing, but also how they can stand apart from the ordinary brands of coffee.
“We know that people like sweet stuff but we also understand that many of our clients have started making healthy choices. All our unique flavours are completely natural and we also offered healthy alternatives to sugar such as jaggery and date syrup,” he says.
Bean there, done that
There was quite a bit of first-hand research that Third Wave had to do to gain insight into the coffee-buying practices of customers. They spent many hours sitting at popular coffee shops and listening to customers at the cash register and making note of what the guests ordered.
“We’ve also spent a lot of time at our own cafes, interacting with customers and getting their taste preferences in person,” Sushant says.
The daily grind
Sushant believes that some of the world’s best coffees are found in Kenya and Ethiopia. India is among the largest producers of coffee in the world but it is not generally marketed as a country with great quality coffee.
"However, there is quite a bit of great coffee that is grown in India, but we don’t know a lot about it because most of it is exported abroad. Third Wave is among the artisanal brands trying to change this trend and make India’s finest coffees more accessible locally,” he adds.
From source to cup
Micro-roasteries enable the source-to-cup experience. The word “micro” means that you don’t end up roasting large quantities and storing them for months on end.
“We roast our coffee in small batches and makes sure it is consumed within a week. That way, it tastes the best and all the flavours and subtleties are preserved,” he says. A great cup of coffee is freshly roasted, brewed at perfect temperature with an ideal water-to-coffee ratio.
What’s brewing now?
People enjoy walking into Third Wave for a host of different experiences. “Our cafes are great places to work, catch up or just hang out, and this attracts freelancers, artists, writers, and a lot of like-minded people who share the space. People end up meeting, talking, and even possibly end up working together or co-founding something they’re passionate about,” Sushant says.
As micro-communities of freelancers, designers, and people from startups began coming to the outlets, Third Wave decided to organise events to further engage the community. One such event saw a community of artists, illustrators, and writers come together and explore how art and culture can drive people towards a more sustainable future. Today, they also hold events where they teach different coffee brewing methods to their clients.
The right shot at the right time
Though Third Wave takes up a lot of Sushant’s time, he loves to relax by playing football.
“My love for the game began 12-15 years ago, when I was in Mumbai. Growing up, everyone around me was playing football and it was only natural that I did too. I still play football thrice a week, late at night when I’m not working and there are fewer cars on the streets. I have different groups of friends that I end up playing with each week and there are few things I’d rather do when I’m not working,” Sushant says.
For the love of fitness
Sushant also enjoy running as it helps keep his mind clear while helping him to think. “I did a couple of half marathons a few years ago and I really enjoy a run every now and then,” he says, adding, “I think it’s important to stay in shape, because that quite certainly impacts the way your mind works. In today’s high-pressure work environment, a razor-sharp mind is always a great asset.”
Sushant finds that “me time” is really important in order to evaluate his goals. His hobbies have always given him balance and helped him take a step back and evaluate other aspects of his life.
Advice for entrepreneurs
Sushant has plenty of advice for those who plan to launch their own startups. “Before starting out, you must understand that there will be tremendous highs as well as crushing lows. More often than not, it feels like you’re running around putting out one fire after another.
"Another important lesson I learned very early on is that no task is too small, no matter how small it is. There will come a time when you’ll have to delegate, but you shouldn’t delegate before doing it yourself. Finally, I’d like to reiterate that your business will take a toll on you and that it’s important to find balance,” he says.
And now, for the future…
Sushant says their vision is to provide specialty coffee experiences at scale. They are working towards providing people with great coffee at various distribution points so that their clients can consume coffee at different places while doing whatever they want.
A change that is already happening is how people are switching from instant coffee to freshly brewed beverages. Keen to tap this change, Third Wave aims to set up 100 stores by the end of 2020.
“We’re a technology forward company and we believe that the industry is headed the same way too,” Sushant says. “As a consumer-first company, we believe that customer feedback is extremely invaluable and we try our hardest to understand what the customer wants and try to optimise their experiences at our outlets to the fullest.”
(Edited by Teja Desai Lele)