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Chennai-based coffee startup Farmgate is bringing Arabica beans from Coorg to store shelves

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Now, filter coffee for conference calls: Chennai-based coffee startup Farmgate is bringing Arabica beans from Coorg to store shelves, and filter coffee machines to workplaces

“We have been producing coffee for over 100 years,” says 30-year-old Lakshmanan Sevugan, about his family’s coffee estates in Coorg.

So far, however, the family has only been supplying quality Arabica and Robusta beans to coffee makers and agents. Now, the millennial entrepreneur is changing things. “Usually, these sales that happen through a farm gate, where agents come and buy, are called farm gate sales,” he says, explaining the logic behind the name of his new coffee brand.

Farmgate Coffee, ironically, aims to do the exact opposite of traditional farmgate sales. “We want to give our customers the direct farm to cup experience,” says Lakshmanan. This is what the startup has been trying to do ever since its launch in August.

Arabica beans are brought from the estates in Coorg to Chennai, roasted, ground and blended in Mylapore, and packaged in specific blends with chicory, at Farmgate’s corporate office in Nungambakam. They are then sent to clients like restaurants and coffee shops, each of which orders a unique blend for customers.

“We are focusing on Arabica for now. I have grown up drinking this coffee. I like it to be 100% coffee, but the studies we did show that people prefer different blends,” shrugs Lakshmanan. In fact, 60% of the people they studied with preferred coffee mixed with chicory “because they do not like the pure bitterness of it,” says Lakshmanan.

The coffee is not only for businesses, however. A specific 80% medium-roast coffee to 20% chicory blend, called Namma Chennai, is packaged for retail, and has shown up at a few store shelves around the city. Two more will be up by the end of this year.

“We don’t have distributors as such; we operate the entire supply chain ourselves, since we are still a small startup,” says Lakshmanan. His ambitions don’t end there, probably because his love for coffee itself doesn’t end at the pick stage or with any particular roast, but in a dabara of steaming filter coffee. “I love filter coffee; I would take a break and walk out to drink some, back when I had an office job.”

Chennai-based coffee startup Farmgate is bringing Arabica beans from Coorg to store shelves

Lakshmanan is convinced that most office-goers — not only in Chennai and Bengaluru but also Mumbai, Delhi and other parts of the country — would jump at the chance to have filter coffee at work. “But all they get are cappuccino machines, or the option of getting filter coffee delivered from somewhere. It doesn’t taste the same,” he says.

So next up Farmgate’s sleeve is a filter coffee solution, including a blend and a filter coffee machine. “It is a pure play filter coffee vending machine, a separate vessel where decoction is collected, and kept heated at 70 degrees Celsius over a hot plate,” he explains. The machine — currently used by the Farmgate team in their office — then lets the drinker choose a ‘filter coffee’ option.

The device is not developed by Farmgate, but by a private firm that they have tied up with. “We are still a small startup, we don’t have the budget to make our own machines. Just like we don’t have the budget to set up our own roastery, yet.”

Farmgates coffees are roasted and ground, according to its clients’ requirements, at Sundaram Coffee in Mylapore, which has been in the business for over 70 years. Coffee beans are sent to Sundaram every other day, and roasted, cooled, then ground in small batches of five kilos each. “The lesser the amount, the more attention we can give while roasting, and the better taste we get,” says Magan Pradeep, branch manager of Sundaram Coffees in Mylapore.

Back in the coffee estates, picking season has begun. “Arabica till January and Robusta till March. So I will be visiting Coorg more frequently over the next few months. I’m going there next week, in fact,” smiles Lakshmanan.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 2:46:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/chennai-based-farmgate-is-bringing-coorg-coffee-to-store-shelves/article30006709.ece

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