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Updated: May 9, 2014 18:55 IST

Tea, coffee and commerce

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K.P. Sivaram runs the 62-year-old Sanker's Coffee and Tea outlet in the capital city. Photo: Liza George
The Hindu K.P. Sivaram runs the 62-year-old Sanker's Coffee and Tea outlet in the capital city. Photo: Liza George

K.P. Sivaram is carrying on the tradition of the 62-year-old Sanker’s Coffee and Tea outlet in Thiruvananthapuram

The aroma of freshly roasted and ground coffee fills the air as one steps into Sanker’s Coffee and Tea on Puthenchantha, M.G. Road. However, K.P. Sivaram, proprietor of the 62-year-old store, seems oblivious to the aroma. He is busy checking the accounts and attending to customers if his staff is tied up with other clients.

“My father, P.K. Parameswaran Nair, ensured my siblings and I were trained well in running the shop. He passed away last year. From him, we learnt how to roast, grind, package…,” says Sivaram, who starts his day with a cup of coffee and ends it with a cup of tea.

One does admire his fortitude, however, in limiting his coffee to just one cup, especially when he is constantly enveloped by the aroma of coffee. Sivaram smiles and says: “It’s not that difficult. It’s something I am used to, something I grew up with.”

He recalls his father telling him how he used to supply coffee powder and tea leaves to various restaurants and hotels in the city. Parameswaran Nair would buy coffee beans from wholesalers and would hand roast and grind them at home. He would then sell them at restaurants and hotels. As for tea, he would pack the leaves, also bought from wholesalers, into small individual packets and sell them. Realising the viability of his venture, he then decided to set up shop. And thus Sanker’s was born.

“My father focussed on coffee as the market for freshly ground coffee was small then. In those days, the coffee market was a closed one; one could only buy from the Coffee Board and hence supply was limited. We didn’t sell tea then as packaged teas were available in stores.”

Sanker’s started expanding its repertoire by introducing tea in the mid 1960s and nuts and spices 15 years ago. “Malayalis are mostly ‘tea drinkers’ and many of our customers started asking for tea.” Sanker’s obliged and started out by supplying tea in various grades.

The store has recently added flavoured teas, green tea and white tea to their list of products. “Such teas, especially green tea and white tea, are a trend amongst health enthusiasts while youngsters prefer flavoured teas; lemon being a favourite. We were perhaps one of the first to introduce green tea to the market. I read an article in a paper about the medicinal benefits in green tea and started out by introducing a limited supply of this tea. We now have five to six varieties of the tea which one can buy by the gram and also branded teas that come in packets.”

The 46-year-old says that foreigners tend to pick up white, green and black tea by the gram.

Both the young and the old visit Sanker’s. “There are those who frequented the store when it first began. I have had youngsters come up saying they remember visiting the shop when they were kids with their grandparents. A reason why we have repeat customers is because we keep a keen eye on the quality. We also ensure our staff is polite. These are some tips our father gave us on how to run the store successfully,” says Sivaram who has fond memories of his early days at the store.

A student of Government Model Boys Higher Secondary School, Sivaram recalls how he would look forward to going to the store after school. “As we were often hungry after school, my dad would pick up small eats from a nearby bakery called Queens. It was something, we all looked forward to.”

So, what next? “I don’t know. My wife, Asha, and I have two girls – Shivani and Kinara. Shivani is in class eight and Kinara is in class one. I hope to see them run the store one day.”

Exotic teas

Maple tea

Strawberry tea

Chocolate tea

Mulberry tea

Camomile tea

Peach Apricot tea

Peppermint tea

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