What’s brewing now? A conversation with a coffee entrepreneur
Poornima Katyal is the Founder of Third Roast Coffee, a speciality cold brew coffee. Recently introduced in Delhi- NCR, Third Roast has a flavourful portfolio of coffees.
She speaks to YS Weekender on coffee trends, her entrepreneurship journey with coffee, and how to make the perfect cuppa.
Can you tell us how you got started in the coffee business?
I was always an avid consumer of coffee in all its glory - pour over, aeropress, filter coffee, you name it. In 2016, my husband was traveling to New York, and totally fell in love with cold brew coffee. He got me some ready-to-drink samples and a Hario cold brew maker. I started brewing coffee at home and realised that the cold brew process helped reduce the acidity in coffee, making it smoother.
A year later, we travelled to Hanoi, and right opposite our dreamy Airbnb was a quaint little cafe that served the most addictive cold brew coffee. It was intense and rich with flavour - I was consuming 3-4 cups a day (black and sometimes with condensed milk). I was instantly hooked and began my research as soon as I got back to Delhi. Many months, and even more cups of coffee later, I had found the right cold brew blend for me.
What made you decide to get into coffee entrepreneurship?
I was the brand manager for an ecommerce company in Delhi. But once I fell in love with cold brew coffee, I noticed a gap in the market and decided to address it. I started supplying coffee to a few friends, collecting feedback. Through word of mouth, I began getting orders from friends of friends. Now, it’s a small-batch cold brew kitchen, grinding fresh coffee and brewing flavoured cold brews every day, in ready to drink 200ml bottle packs.
What is the USP of your brand?
I started out by making house blends that I enjoyed consuming, and ended up with Third Roast in the hope that others would like it too. Today we have five different products, and every variant has a unique flavour. We keep surprising our customers with experimented flavours, desserts to go with the coffees, and house recipes that can make the cold brew experience go beyond just coffee.
What is the secret of making a good cup of coffee?
You can control the flavour by managing the water temperature, the kind of filtered water used, the ratio of coffee to water, and the brew time. There is no right or wrong way but you can achieve what you want through experimentation - one has to keep an open mind.
What are the different kinds of coffee popular among coffee lovers today?
Coffee aficionados are adopting different ways of brewing their coffee (aeropress, moka pots, nespresso machines) but there is this certain comfort in a tasty flat white or a rich cappuccino. Lately, cold brew coffee has gained popularity because it is low in acidity and yet rich in flavour.
Why have micro-roasters become so popular? What is so special about the flavour of these coffees?
Micro-roasters create that coffee shop experience one likes to discover in their neighbourhood. It gives us a sense of belonging and community, a feeling we all crave. Unlike big coffee brands, we know our local micro-roaster and the barista, and the fact that they customise their brews only makes this a more compelling proposition for consumers.
Has coffee changed over the years, both in making/brewing and as a sub-culture?
For sure, coffee culture has evolved over the years and has become a lifestyle choice for many. Historically, coffee shops were like a neighbourhood community centre or a local chai ki dukaan where people would congregate to discuss politics, read their favourite novels, gossip about a scandal, and indulge in some friendly banter. The second wave came with an influx of instant coffees that offered the convenience of making a quick cup of coffee at home. The next wave was overrun by big coffee, which was great for exposure since it made coffee accessible to a much wider audience.
Third-generation coffee businesses are moving towards a more discerning coffee drinking culture where the community is connected with producers to provide variety of origins and allow people to experiment with their coffee brews. It’s all about a better experience, one that energises your day.
What are the coffee variants you offer and what is so special about them?
We have five variants: Straight Up Black, Vanilla, Spice Thrice, Vietnameasy and Almondo. The Straight up Black is a no-fuss, black coffee. It is intense, rich, and smooth with a chocolate finish. The Vanilla cold brew is our specialty black coffee, and is infused with high-quality vanilla extract and pods. The Vietnameasy is a silken, dreamy mélange of our specialty coffee and thick condensed milk, while Spice Thrice is a festive concoction of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and our signature cold brew coffee. And finally, our Almondo is a tasty concoction of almond butter, raw cacao powder, dates, oats, and our signature cold brew coffee.
How can a person experiment with coffee flavours at home?
Roasts: I’d recommend sampling a few different roasts - light, medium, dark. As you make your cup of coffee, you’d slowly understand your preference. This is the first step to having a tasty cup of coffee to start your day.
Equipment: Although, it can feel intimidating, don’t shy away from getting an aeropress, a moka pot, or a cold brew jar. Changing the way you brew your coffee can impact it’s flavour profile, and you may discover a wonderful cup through this.
Flavours: To add flavour, try infusing vanilla pods in the sugar you add to your cuppa. If you’re into spices, infuse cinnamon and nutmeg in your cold brew overnight to get your own spiced brew.
How do you come up with recipes for unusual coffees?
It’s a fine balance between consumer preferences and experimentation. For example, I believe Vanilla is a more conventionally popular flavour and, on the other hand, our Spice Thrice coffee is a bit more flavour forward.
Have you ever witnessed a barista competition or worked with specialised baristas?
I love barista competitions. They’re friendly, non-egoistic, and let people share their love for coffee and learn from each other. I would love to work with special baristas. I am in touch with a few, and given the right opportunity, I’m sure we’ll work together.
What kind of coffees do you drink? What are some of the coffees you would like to taste someday?
My morning cup is usually an espresso or a French press, but I live on Third Roast cold brew - it’s bordering on an addiction. I would like to try the Turkish coffee in Istanbul.
What are the best coffees in the world that you have enjoyed?
The ones I have really enjoyed are Union single origin blends, particularly Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. I visited the Monmouth coffee in Borough Market, London and enjoyed their different blends too. Closer home, I love spending time at Perch in Delhi. It’s not just about the coffee, but the vibe they’ve created that makes one want to burrow in there.
What do you enjoy doing on the weekender?
I love reading books about people and their lives and how they are changing the world around us. I also love listening to podcasts on design, spaces, science and coffee, of course. I love travelling and I want to go on a tour to taste coffee round the world. I have recently taken up to climbing which helps me work not only on my physical strength but also on mental and cognitive abilities.
What are your future plans for your coffee business?
The future plan for Third Roast is to make it accessible to more people. I would like to expand it to more neighbourhoods, through retail and online stores. Having said that, we’d like to continue to try introducing seasonal flavours to surprise our customers.