Call it increased urbanization or drinking preferences, we have come to a phase where certain cafes can be labelled as ‘home’ – well, more of an in-between work and home where communities grow. But with this emerging and ‘growing in vast number’ trend, how can one stand out?
What’s the first thing you do after you wake up, in order to fully function and be a productive person? Here, insert coffee to begin and process yourself. Well, this isn’t new for most of us – the taste, the aroma, and the boost that comes from a cup of coffee. But, most of us don’t know that brewing the perfect cup is actually an art, a science in itself. A good cup of coffee speaks for itself, makes it worthy of thousands of compliments. People are ready to pay a good amount for quality coffee. Sooner or later, people have started learning of other careers apart from the mainstream fields. Mithilesh Vazalwar, founder of Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters has made a unique journey from being a coffee roaster to owning a cafe. He is among a few certified coffee Q graders of our country and also, the first to win from India at the World Aeropress Championship. The aromas of coffee mixed in his childhood memories have brought him into the real coffee world. He knows that a good coordinator between roasters and coffee farmers will bring up changes in India’s coffee land and will open a business for both. Vazalwar also shares with us some random stories and memories that can crack anyone, “Something I can never forget is how we got this 800 kg Coffee Roasting Machine from Germany inside the roastery. When it reached, we had just five of us to lift/move it. There was even no vehicle to reach there so we had to push it for four hours atleast – from 12 am to 4 am. That was insane!”
The Great Coffee Cruise:
Mithilesh, too, like most of us, wasn’t aware of the related industries in coffee that could set a career. With India moving into the ‘New Age’ zone, people have started exploring their passions fearlessly, the same happened for him too, “I was pursuing CA, my father is a CA too- so just followed without any questions. But, then my visit to Melbourne changed everything. I used to brew and drink coffee since I was 15 maybe and in fact imported books on coffee as well. But, a career in coffee was never an idea back then. So, Melbourne was for a business trip “a ca tie-up” I had my firm back then. I did a short 2-day course in coffee- that was it. I loved the life and you know at times, you feel this is the skin you can wear and made for this. It was the feeling that happened in 2015.”
Not just invested in coffee, Mithilesh was a National Level Badminton player too. He has also been a part of Blue Tokai India, a coffee company wherein less than 2 years, he became their Head of QC from a junior roaster. He knew he had the eye for coffee brewing then! Working with icons who are his mentors – Alexandru Niculae (World Roasting Champion 2016), Anne Cooper (Australian Roasting Championship Judge), Simon James (Genovese Coffee Roasters), this young talented coffee roaster also known as Indian Bean Hunter, don’t follow the middlemen approach, which actually helps the local and small coffee farmers, “Working with the estate owners directly makes you understand the limitation they have and issues they face. If you can work on the limitations and help them with any kind of issue- you are not only buying coffee but you are also ensuring that the pain points are worked upon together. If the estate owner and my ideology match, that’s where you can create great coffee. And we have some tremendous estate owners in our country itself, we should stop looking at other countries for that. Currently, I work with farmers from Chikmagalur, Yercaud, Meghalaya, some in Kerala and Coorg.”
The New Beginning – Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters & Cafe:
India’s Coffee Man – Mithilesh’s journey has been a great one with tonnes of stories brewing along with new challenges and experiences. Reminiscing how he started from a roastery to cafe, he shares, “The cafe initially opened in a tiny 200 sq ft space and now as time exceeded, it is five times the original size. In the beginning, I started with a very modest investment into the raw materials unsure of selling it out anytime soon. In three months when we ran out of the green beans, I thought to myself I should not let down the people who have appreciated my work. That’s how the courage to open a café brewed up in me. Both the efforts and passion made it possible to where I am today.” But, great things aren’t easy to brew. He further added that starting a cafe was not a one-place task. 2017-18 was one such year when he had to visit varied places for different jobs, travelling for almost 140 days to work on different coffee projects pan India.
The main focus of Corridor Seven is the experience that the customers receive. Each and every activity that they do on social media, in the café in Nagpur or website is entirely focused on experience. He further added, “By experience, we do not just mean ‘hi sir, hello ma’am’, one must feel our own friend. So, that is the kind of market I’m looking for. Product without a question rather by default has to be good but what matters the most is how this is achieved. But above that how you do it is something that makes the difference.”
Cafes are now places with much more than just coffee. How many great ideas and much-needed conversations must have happened over a cup of steaming cappuccino? Vazalwar figured that he loved interacting with people over coffee talks which made him start his well-awaited coffee workshops. “I have been conducting workshops since 2015 but haven’t yet made it structured. I have been working on something which will enable not just the giants of roasting but also the new entrants in coffee to work in the coffee industry.” he shares.
Most millennials enter the hype, bragging and self-aggrandizing-culture in order to be just ‘cool’ and create an illustrated vision of reality. The same can be observed in coffee roasting too. The fast development and evolving trends in the coffee industry, cafe-culture somewhere has hyped things up. Mithilesh makes it clear, “If you do it to be cool, you are a fool. Brands are now brainlessly copying – not just from national brands but from abroad and entering the coffee field just to look cool.” Giving a piece of advice to the new roasters who wish to venture into the coffee business – “To become the one in a coffee business, you have to give your all heart and brain. If you don’t really want to cup and be in the coffee industry, you are kidding yourself.”Over the years with skills, experience and some hardships, Mithilesh has built a team who are his family, “You should meet my team at Corridor. I recommend you to have August Rush, which we will be launching soon at our cafe. Of the current blends, Marching Blend is something I have every day and I recommend it, too.”
Well, India’s advent to coffee culture might seem new to you and me, but it hasn’t been. Corridor Seven Coffee tries to beautifully bring the ingredients that a modern cafe needs right now, apart from just hype-culture. What drives a man is always a passion, skills, experience to take part in a ‘less-walked’ norm and excel it, like Mithilesh Vazalwar. What awaits right now, is the revamped and reimagined culture of a very traditional one. Well, remixes are the new mechanism, aren’t they? and, the one who can combine both the timelines can own the game.
Images by Corridor Seven Coffee