Words by Roshna Chandran
Based in the predominantly tea drinking nation of India, Maverick and Farmer Coffee are setting new trends as they take things to the next level with their fourth wave coffee brewing methods.
Ashish D’Abreo, co-founder of Maverick and Farmer, talks to LLM on how the brand has evolved the way consumers in India perceive coffee.
How are you different as a fourth wave coffee brewer?
When we define third wave coffee brand, it means from a customer point of view there is a lot more clarity in terms of where the coffee is coming from and the kind of process that has been applied to make the taste unique. The terroir and the climatic conditions also play an important role in determining the coffee bean’s unique characteristics. So, third wave begins the moment when the consumer opens his packet of coffee; they know where the farmer and his farm are located and they know what kind of coffee to expect.
We started out as a third wave coffee brand but we consider ourselves a fourth wave coffee brand now that we have taken everything to the next level. Coffee brewing is getting more and more micro. Our 150 acre farm is actually a laboratory, where we do not induce any artificial flavour, but we are trying to create and extract a more interesting coffee through natural processes such as smoking or playing with fermentation or the yeast and bacteria; it could be the type of roasting that we do or it can also be the type of storage.
This year we are trying to come out with something far more unique. The previous year, we were the first to work with differential fermented coffee and launched the Coorg smoked coffee. There weren’t any other references of it anywhere in the world and we managed to get sold out within a month, even though we thought it would last for around three to four months.
What challenges did you face while setting up Maverick and Farmer?
We started out as Flying Squirrel in 2013 but later three of our partners decided to exit the company. In 2019, along with Tej Thammaiah and Sreeram Gangadharan, we revamped to Maverick and Farmer. My partner, Tej comes from a family of third generation farmers. The 150-acre coffee plantation is located at Thailidhatta in Coorg, which is about 220kms from Bangalore. Tej has a traditionally run farm, where the coffee, in certain situations, is grown in higher or lower altitudes.
We have required water for irrigation and there are steps taken to increase the water table level in order to save rain water, so all the water comes from the farm itself. There are climatic changes which are happening globally causing fruiting to happen sooner than the necessary time. Sometimes we have a bloom just before the seasonal rains. Last December, there was an uncharacteristic rainfall that affected the drying process. So there was a chance that our coffee beans would end up covered in fungus. We have seen a lot of this happening in the last seven to eight years.
How do you plan to break the traditional tea market trend?
We certainly have come a long way in terms of marketing. India is still predominantly a tea market. Having said that, over the years we have seen many coffee brands come up. In terms of creating a basic brand of coffee; anyone can get access to a farm, an out sourced restaurant, packaging and advertise it on google. Still, what really sets us apart is that people know that we are doing something unique. We educate through our emails, social media, through advertising. Our predominant customer is the 25 to 35 age group who are more into experimental and experiential seeking.
We have two cafes in Delhi, which are now temporarily closed due to the global pandemic, but otherwise we had found the Delhi crowd to be more receptive to our coffee brand probably because it is considered a novelty. The willingness to experiment and try new experiences is something that the Delhi audience has. In terms of online sales, sometimes Delhi does better than Bangalore and sometimes Mumbai does better than Delhi, so it varies. At the moment our fastest moving product is Parama.
How are things looking up through the global pandemic?
Things are looking up even though there is much talk of a second wave. Our plan is to keep widening the net and keep customising our products. We are quite free footed as we are a small bunch of people who have expertise all over the place, so it is easy to cite products and to market them.
Do you think consumers are taking on to brewing their own coffee at home?
People are opening up to the idea, but if our consumers can make their own cup of Maggie noodles, or a cup of tea and so many other things, then why not brew their own coffee? We do have products or solutions that make it really easy to make coffee and the same goes for those who would like to go through the entire brewing process.