We live in a world where coffee flows through the veins of millions. So much to the point that we refuse to begin our day without a cup of joe, first thing in the morning. While we all are in love with our own preferred brands and roast profiles, the G20 summit brought to limelight a certain brand that one cannot be unaware of, especially if they are a coffee aficionado. Products by ARAKU Coffee—a name synonymous with excellence and an unwavering commitment to quality—were gifted to renowned international leaders as a part of the Gift Hamper. And while this may have resulted in the international recognition of the brand, it was also a proud moment for Indian single-origin specialty coffee, to be recognised at such a level.
With the achievement of this feat and yet another feather in their cap, we couldn’t have missed this opportunity to get into the details of the event. And with the 1st of October being celebrated as International Coffee Day, we couldn’t have set up a more perfect occasion to let you in on the scoop as well. In conversation with Aditi Dugar, the Chief Brand Advisor at ARAKU Coffee, stands as a beacon of innovation and sophistication in the realm of caffeine. A passionate food entrepreneur and the first female restaurateur in India to grace Asia's 50 Best 2021 list as well as the visionary behind ARAKU Coffee's all-new café in Bangalore, Aditi orchestrated a symphony of creativity, uniting diverse experts – from agronomists to designers – to encapsulate the brand's ethos. Join us as we delve into the caffeinated world of Aditi Dugar, where every sip tells a story of passion, innovation, and excellence.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
How do you feel, being a part of ARAKU’s trailblazing journey? I am honoured to be a part of the ARAKU journey, a venture that has revolutionised the coffee industry in India. ARAKU stands out as the pioneer in implementing a complete seed-to-cup journey, with its remarkable flagships located in both Paris and Bangalore. We are situated in Andhra Pradesh which has proven to be an exceptional highland for cultivating 100% Arabica coffee with an unmatched quality and flavour profile. As Chief Brand Advisor to ARAKU, I have the privilege of spearheading the food and beverage programme, forging brand partnerships, driving corporate sales, establishing our e-commerce presence, and shaping the brand's voice across various social media platforms. It’s exciting to be able to contribute to the brand’s vision of delivering exceptional coffee experiences to our patrons.
What is your approach to sustainability and ethical sourcing within the coffee industry? When we talk about sustainability, a point that one needs to pay attention to is that our regenerative agricultural practices tend to improve soil health. If I may share an example, in 2015 the soil organic carbon (SOC-refers to the carbon of organic matter that determines the level of the soils water retention)) was a healthy 1.40%. Later in 2022, when we tested it again we found out that the SOC is now at 7.2%. This has been made possible by the Naandi Foundation, which supports the farmers in ARAKU Valley. Owing to the Foundations support, an ARAKUnomics model was developed. And the model itself highlighted three principles: Protecting the terroir while honouring the relationship between the land, the farmers and their families. Practising regenerative agriculture, which makes the soil dynamically fertile and nutrient-rich. And lastly, creating shared value through fair distribution of profits across the value chain.
Are there any unique or rare coffee varieties or processing methods that ARAKU Coffee specialises in? ARAKU offers its patrons the Micro Climate, which is actually cultivated in the exceptional terroir of the riverine island of Baankubedda, situated in the ARAKU region. Its distinct tasting profile boasts notes of strawberry, olives, cherry and cacao, making it a truly extraordinary coffee variety. On the other hand, we also have Selection, which is a blend that utilises three processing methods: Natural, Honey, and Washed. This results in a coffee with tasting notes of honey, dark chocolate, sugarcane and caramel, providing a unique, full-bodied experience.
Can you describe the flavour profiles of your favourite coffee choice from ARAKU Coffee’s offerings? Without a doubt or a second thought, my favourite coffee drink at ARAKU has to be Café L’Orange. It’s a cold brew shaken with ice, orange zest essence and topped with carbonated water. You’ve got to try it!
Are there any signature drinks or coffee pairings that you recommend with your products? Well, the drinks and pairings will always depend on context. If you're in the mood for something classic, our craft bakes at the Café perfectly complement the entire range of coffees on the Seriously ARAKU menu (which includes Cappuccino, Latte, Cortado, Espresso, etc.). For those seeking a more playful option, Café L’Orange is a definite crowd-pleaser. If we are taking about pairing coffee with something to eat, even the food at ARAKU reflects the brand’s ethos of respecting the produce. Our dishes are globally-inspired but firmly local, in that, they're made with traceable and organic ingredients. Its single-ingredient focus; the kitchen explores various textures, flavour and possibilities of produce, thereby doing so much more with less.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to appreciate coffee on a deeper level? While I don’t have advice per se, I definitely do think there are a few things any coffee connoisseur should keep in mind. Firstly, learn about the coffee's origin. The region it came from, the processing method used and maybe other geographical indicators can provide insights into the flavours and characteristics of the beans. Second: Prioritise freshness, because specialty coffee is best enjoyed when it’s fresh. At ARAKU, we roast-to-order at our in-house roastery and the nitrogen flushing process keeps the coffee fresh. Experiment with brewing techniques and understand what grind size is suitable for your brewing method. And finally, coffee education. You’ll only widen your horizon when you attend tastings, cuppings, short courses etc. to develop a discerning palate.
Can you describe your experience at the G20 Summit? The G20 Summit was a huge feat for us. ARAKU Coffee was featured as part of the official gift hampers—Sandook—for world leaders at the Summit in New Delhi. We were also part of the Spouse Programme Exhibit that showcased home-grown brands for the First Ladies. We had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with Akshata Murty, UK; Emine Erdoğan, Turkey; and several other First Ladies. I personally consider this opportunity as a pivotal moment in presenting internationally-renowned, single-origin Indian specialty coffee on a global scale.
What role do you see artisanal coffee playing in the future of the coffee industry? Well, the Indian specialty coffee industry is growing at a rapid rate. Consumers are more sophisticated in their choices and are beginning to appreciate the finer nuances of coffee and the importance of professional cupping scores, traceability and taste profiles. The result you may ask? Through transparent sourcing and production methods, artisanal coffee fosters a narrative that enhances the overall coffee-drinking experience and is a defining factor in the evolution of the coffee industry at large.
Favourite coffee experience or memory? An experience that is still very vivid in my memory was when I was cruising around Mexico City and I stumbled upon this café named Blason. I loved their roast profiles and particularly their Iced Café Latte. It just hit the sweet spot for me. Since then, every time I am in Mexico City and in the neighbourhood, I make at least one visit.
Natasha Kittur is an aspiring writer. Her love for anything with cheese and spice is profound, but a white sauce pasta always tops her list. In her free time you will catch her reading or watching crime books and shows or go on and on about psychological experiments and theories. She aims to write a book in the fictional genre someday.