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Updated: May 21, 2014 18:01 IST

Mr. Bean!

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IN LOVE WITH COFFEE Marc Tomo Photo: T. SIngaravelou
IN LOVE WITH COFFEE Marc Tomo Photo: T. SIngaravelou

What makes Indian coffee special? Marc Tormo, a Spaniard who chose to make Auroville his home, gets into the details when Shonali Muthalaly meets him over a cuppa

The jungle suddenly smells of coffee. We follow the fragrance to its source. A modest café, with rickety wooden tables, jars of gluten free biscotti and a snoring dog. Despite all its badges of hippydom, Marc’s Coffee set in Auroville, is the epicentre of an important movement. One of the country’s first new wave coffee shops, it promotes organic locally-sourced coffee. And Spanish Marc Tormo, bouncing excitedly between sacks of freshly roasted coffee, is the man who began it all.

“I first came to India in1992 as a tourist. Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho… You know, the usual. The golden triangle,” he says, adding, “I was 19 then. Travelling with my parents, so it was like a video. Five star hotels, and very little reality.” Living in Barcelona, he found that India affected him powerfully. “I stepped into Delhi, and something happened. It’s very difficult to describe it in words.”

Back in Spain he worked as a salesman for industrial fittings for two years, to earn enough money to return to India. “I was inspired by Dominique Lapierre’s book City Of Joy. So I went to Kolkata. Got lost in the slums, met Mother Teresa and gave her all my savings. Worked there for a few days — I was searching.” His travels eventually took him to Pondicherry, and then Auroville. “It really resonated. I can’t explain why, logically.”

He returned to Barcelona, quit his job and made arrangements to move to Auroville for 6 months. “In that time, I tried every job in Auroville — incense making, marbling paper, indigo dying. I worked in construction at Matri Mandir, doing welding.” He adds, “Then I moved to the village for a month, rented a hut with a thatched roof. I was a Spanish man in a remote village in a foreign country. But I felt connected with everything.”

This was 1994, and although he decided this was where he wanted to settle down he realised he needed to have something to contribute first. “Of course, at 21 you’re not fully mature as person. And I had no specific skills. I wanted to come back with a skill, a project, a vision.”

His sister has just finished hospitality management studies and they decided to set up something together. “So I thought — what about coffee? It’s always played a very important role in our lives. In Spain, the only time to talk to the family is after lunch, on Sunday over coffee.”

So they began a 2nd generation coffee shop, offering 12 types of coffee and 50 types of tea. “For me that was my university. I met roasters, suppliers, did research. Learnt how to become a barista. That’s when I fell in love with coffee and thought — oh, my god! This is amazing. There’s so much science and art behind a cup of coffee. So much you can do, and offer…”

He ran his coffee shop for three years, till he got married. “One of our wedding gifts was two tickets to anywhere in the world. So I told my wife, come with me to India.” This was 1995, before the cappuccino culture swept India. “There was the South Indian filter coffee and there was instant coffee . But India was producing such interesting coffee, which none of the locals were drinking.”

Marc says, “Indian coffee is shade grown, so it’s just mind blowing. In Kenya and Brazil, the plantations are just coffee so the land gets depleted. Then they move to the next patch of jungle. The marvel of India is that there are forests, and coffee growing underneath the trees. So it co-exists.”

In 1997, he moved to Auroville for good. “I started exploring the possibilities — looking at plantations… I learnt how to recognise quality coffee. It’s the most complex drink in the world. Wine has 400 chemical compounds in the flavour make-up. Coffee has 1,200 and more.”

Experimenting with blends

Marc states the “potential of Indian coffee is phenomenal… The bean variety is excellent because it originated from Ethiopia — the cradle of coffee.” He’s been experimenting with different blends and single origin coffee. “I work with the best of the best. Normally these beans are exported, but my suppliers now know me and give me what I need. My coffee comes from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.”

Marc explains that flavour is directly connected to location. “It depends on water. The shade trees. In India they have maintained the diversity of trees. There’s jackfruit that falls and disintegrates in the soil, making it richer. There are flowers. Oranges decomposing. Vanilla, cinnamon, pepper... all these have an impact. So the soil here is black. It’s dark, rich. Now that makes a great coffee.”


Kumbakonam Degree CoffeeOctober 27, 2012

Coffee connectOctober 25, 2012

I know Marc's coffee shops, the Kulapalayam branch was my first espresso fix every
morning for three weeks

from:  Loraine Kopman
Posted on: Mar 7, 2013 at 12:50 IST

Awesome man!

from:  H.Gatty
Posted on: Mar 4, 2013 at 23:01 IST
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