I’ve never been too fond of coffee. Always been a milk baby. Even during exams, when I had to stay up late, while all my other friends were drinking mugs of caffeine, I would pop chocolates in my mouth. But as I grew older, I realized that I’ve got to start expanding my taste buds and learning to appreciate a lot of things in life, especially ingredients that are so close to home.
Do you know how many coffee estates Karnataka alone holds? This made me go to the land of coffee. Coorg last year to explore. I was so intrigued by the whole process and slowly started loving it. It’s not something I would drink everyday like most people but at least I don’t gag at the sight or smell of it anymore.
Few weeks ago, I got an invite to a coffee tasting session by the folks at Flying Squirrel and as much as I’m trying to avoid reviews, this was quite hard to resist moreover because I’m very curious to learn more about this bean.
Founded in 2013, by a group of passionate coffee lovers represented by Ashish D’Abreo, Tej Thammaiah – third generation coffee estate owner and coffee connoisseur and Phalgun Chidanand, entrepreneur and restaurateur, the Flying Squirrel is an artisan coffee brand, and purveyor of high quality specialty coffees sourced largely from its own and select, handpicked estates. If you’re a crazy coffee lover, you will totally detest the supermarket packets after having a taste of this.
They started at the estate level, working with India’s finest coffee consultant and saw how natural soil, climate and water conditions could create better coffee beans. After experimenting with different cultivars, varying growing conditions, inter-cropping, different methods of processing, drying, storing and roasting – and various permutations and combinations of the same, followed by copious amounts of cupping, they finally settled on 7 perfectly diverse, beautiful coffees. A non-coffee drinker like me saying this, must mean something know?
The whole process from bean to cup was so interesting to listen to. So every year in the months of December, January and February, picking of coffee on the estate takes place. The women in brightly coloured sarees are all over the farm hand-picking equally brightly coloured coffee cherries, each one ripened to perfection. All of these picked cherries are then collected as per the kind of bean (Arabica or Robusta) and cultivar, and then processed in different artisan ways. A few days later, drying begins and the huge brick yards are covered in tiny mountains of washed, semi-pulped or un-pulped cherries with a beautiful grassy fragrance permeating through the air.
Weeks later the coffee is husked (where necessary) and bagged to be stored in our well ventilated storage halls, placed away from heat or moisture. Every week, a few bags of these green beans make their way to Bangalore where they are stored at The Flying Squirrel roastery and roasted 3-5 times a week depending our customer requirement. There are so many factors that play in getting the perfect bean: amount of water, soil conditions, pruning, grafting, transplanting and cross-cropping. Next, it’s important to pick the cherries at the right time. They’ve got to keenly monitor pulping, fermentation, soaking of cherries, drying and husking.
Packing and storage is an equally important process. Each of these little elements play a huge role in the way the cup eventually tastes. And it’s only a farmer with immense experience and a keen eye who is able to tread that fine line between impeccable quality and rising production. Even in those cases where they require certain higher or lower altitude beans or beans of different cultivars, they source these from partner estates, and Tej works together with some of these farmers in getting the kind of output and quality that makes The Flying Squirrel cut.
This micro roastery is definitely changing the coffee culture in the city. It offers customers the choice of seven artisan single-estate, freshly ground coffees – available as pour over, espresso or Americano, cappuccino, latte and some even as a cold brew, depending on the variety selected. On offer for the first time in India is the Nitro-Brew– a cold brew infused with nitrogen making it chilled, light and airy.
The varieties of coffee available include Clouds in My Coffee – processed naturally, using sea-side moisture-saturated air to create a distinctive bold, deep flavour. Aromatique – a select Arabica single-estate, naturally processed coffee with mild sweetness and an almost wine-like rounded acidity; Parama – a full-bodied, perfectly balanced coffee with a lining of bitter sweet bright nuances that envelope the cup; Sattva – a single-estate, wholly organic Arabica bean coffee has all the qualities of a great Arabica, and provides a clean, delicious cup of coffee; Sun-Kissed – a single-estate coffee, is processed using the Pulp Sun-drying method (a bit of the fruity pulp is deliberately left on the bean, and allowed to dry and mature). The fruity-berryness of the pulp is drawn into the bean and makes its way into the final cup. And for those looking beyond brewed coffees there is also a selection of cold coffees including Cold Coffee with organic flavouring, beautifully paired Affogatos, Iced tea and Hot Chocolate.
So take your pick!
I brought home with me a packet of the cold brew blend as I knew it would come in handy during the sweltering summer days but before that dessert was on my mind. For some reason, I’ve been quite obsessed with figs lately.
I recently baked an Old Monk cake which is on the blog, fig quinoa pudding ( worked on a healthy dessert project, more details on that soon) and I love throwing them into my breakfast bowls but fig and coffee… Well I wasn’t sure of that combination myself. But who knew it was something everyone at home would enjoy. My grandpa’s tea-time treat was sorted.
Baking with figs can be quite a task at times because the batter gets really sticky so just be careful not to overbeat it. I’ve used organic brown sugar because I love the colour it brings out in the muffins but you could use regular sugar instead.
These are light, not-so sweet muffins that are a winner with the kids and adults. That crumble makes all the difference!