A guide to Chennai’s legacy coffee roasters who have managed to perfect their blends.

When K Muthuswamy walks into Geetha Cafe in Mylapore, the shop owner S Chakraborty has already issued his order.

“Half a kilo. Piberry.” A hoarse sigh (Grind it coarse),” he exclaims.

As the shop’s 38-year-old engine starts, the two men exchange pleasantries and Chakraborty explains that he’s sitting down for an interview about his coffee roasting business. “Customers like Muthswamy have been coming to us for over a decade. He prefers a coarser grind so that the powder doesn’t come out of the coffee filter. This sometimes helps with the flavor profile,” Chakraborty says. say

Coffee beans are roasting.

Beans are roasting Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

“Since I started buying my coffee, nothing has changed here in the last 15 years,” says Muthswamy.

Except for a small painted spruce, every detail in shops like Geetha Coffee has remained the same, including the machines, the color of the walls, the coffee sacks, the bright signboard and the melodious aroma. Words such as peberry, plantation a, robusta (a variety of coffee bean) and chicory (the roasted root of the chicory plant, a common addition to coffee) are mentioned casually.

Customers come in search of how to make the ideal coffee, while others come with instructions. However, everyone carries a hot, freshly brewed pouch of coffee powder that they will love the most. This connection to a customer is what separates coffee roasters from the fancy and well-packaged brands that are now making their mark in India.

A closer look at the process of roasting coffee beans.

A closer look at the process of roasting coffee beans. | Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

Most small-scale coffee roasters like Geetha Coffee usually buy and store one to two tons of green coffee beans per month. As the demand for coffee decreases during the summer months, the quantity decreases. “December season and the monsoon months are when we have the highest demand for coffee,” says Chakraborty. They sell 40 to 70 packets of ground coffee a day throughout the year.

Four iconic brands from Chennai sit down to talk about why they stay in business. They also share their coffee recipes.

Vemala Coffee, RA Puram

Packing coffee powder at Vimala Coffee, RApuram.

Packing coffee powder at Vimala Coffee, RApuram. | Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

S Sundararajan, the owner of Vemla Coffee, opened a dusty diary listing his high-profile clients, including actors, sportsmen and judges. For someone who sometimes seems apathetic about being in the coffee business, Sundararajan is full of pride when talking about the fact that his coffee powder is often sold in the US, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Found in airplanes flown for

The second-generation trader says his establishment began in 1964 when his father left Krai Koodi and jumped into the world of coffee when a relative offered him an opportunity to work in his shop. .

Coffee beans at Vimala are procured from Chikmagalur like all other coffee roasters in Chennai. “Ask your grandmother how she roasted the coffee beans for your grandfather’s first cup. That’s exactly how we make our coffee,” he says.

Vemala Coffee in RA Puram.

Vemala Coffee in RA Puram. | Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

Customers across town have now started delivering coffee powder from this location, but this entrepreneur can still get all the names and addresses off the top of his head. Parcels from countries around the world are usually double-packed and placed in cardboard boxes at the customer’s request.

“Most people prefer the best blend of Pyabri and Plantation A (coffee varieties). We only add chicory for those who ask,” he says.

Sundararajan says he has been able to continue only because he buys good quality coffee beans, stores it for a short period of time and eventually sells it at a small margin. “The younger generation isn’t drinking as much. Most people don’t know how to use a filter or don’t want to go through the trouble. However, I have been told time and again by customers not to close shop,” he said. “We’ll make roast coffee as long as we can,” he says.

Address: 5/3, 3rd Cross Road, RApuram Tel: 24936508, Price: ₹140/250gm.

Everest Coffee, Paris

Everest Coffee in Paris

Everest Coffee in Perry | Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

The trek to Everest Coffee is chaotic. Lorries with men carrying loads of goods, a thriving vegetable market, a barrage of angry tricycle bells and very kind strangers who will point you to the shop for space.

Once you arrive, VK Chandrasekhar will welcome you to his serene space, switch on his new LED board and share interesting topics of his legacy. This shop was started in 1950. The board, the huge coffee roaster and the sacks of coffee beans – about 300kg of it – are proof that Chandrashekhar knows business and means it. For 73 years now, this coffee establishment has been supplying wholesale coffee beans and coffee powder to various parts of the city.

His equipment is as old as his shop, an ancient-looking roasting and grinding machine bought for ₹150 back in the day. “Coffee roasters as old as mine have the same old stuff. The new ones are more efficient because it’s at the touch of a button. The big brands roast a kilo in minutes while ours takes at least half an hour. However, many people taste I feel the difference. That’s why we stick to our original method,” he says.

VK Chandrasekhar roasts coffee at Everest Coffee, Paris.

VK Chandrasekhar roasts coffee at Everest Coffee, Paris. | Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

Over time the shop has started stocking different products including ghee, nuts and spices, but the brand remains loyal to its core coffee customer base and strives to bring only the best quality to the shop.

“We are here since the Indian government controlled the coffee board – in this post-liberalized world. We have tied up with wholesalers who supply us with the best seeds including robusta, plantation a. And peas included. We never put chicory unless asked. I’m sure our business will last for at least two more generations. Where will my son go?” he asks.

Address: 7, Wardha Mathiapan Street, Kothwal Chawri. George Town Tel: 09884033355 Price: ₹150/250g

Geetha Coffee, Mylapore

Geeta Coffee in Mylapore

Geetha Coffee in Mylapore | Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

Chakraborty decided to start his own brand after working in his relative’s coffee roasting business as he wanted to learn the ins and outs of the trade. “Gita is my wife’s name, so naturally the brand was called,” he says.

The shop decided to sell small pouches of its coffee daily at nearby mom and pop stores in Mylapore to popularize its brand. “People liked the taste and started seeking us out,” he says.

Evening interviews at Gita Coffee include customers coming in after a day of shopping, pilgrims praying at the nearby Kapaleshwara temple and regulars who know exactly how they want their coffee. Everyone wants to put in a good word about the quality of the shop.

Two wooden benches are placed outside the roasting and grinding area where there is usually at least one customer chatting with Chakraborty about the current situation. In addition to the aroma of the coffee, his friendly personality probably plays a role in keeping his customers happy.

S. Chakraborty who owns Geetha Coffee, Mylapore.

S Chakraborty who owns Geetha Coffee, Mylapore Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

He adds that the influx of NRIs visiting the city at the end of the year helps boost his sales. “They sometimes expect a little extra packaging and request a box and we’re happy to comply,” he says.

“We have a 90 to 10 ratio of coffee to chicory as most people prefer it. It helps speed up the brewing process. We are happy to make your desired mix,” he says.

Address: Sundareswarar Street, Girija Garden, Mylapore Tel: 24640470 Price: 150/250 gms

Sundaram Coffee, T Nagar and Mylapore

Customers queue up to buy coffee powder at Sundaram Coffee.

Customers queue up to buy coffee powder at Sundaram Coffee. | Photo credit: Velankanni Raj B

Rajakani Saluraj, manager of Sundaram Coffee, lets us in on a secret. He says that while the South Indian palate is used to liking the taste of peberry, it is Plantation A that is more flavorful. “Why don’t you try this concoction next time and let us know?” he asks.

Founded in 1946 by TN Somasundaram, Sundaram Coffee, which has two branches in the city, once supplied coffee powder to small stores, tea shops and hotels in addition to selling at its own store. However, when the business became tiring, Selvaraj decided to focus on selling only to customers who came directly to his store to buy the coffee powder.

Quality is given top priority here. “Unless the bean quality is good, your brew won’t be thick. That’s fundamental to a good cup of coffee,” he says.

The type of coffee produced in Tamil Nadu is basically the same, Selvaraj added. The reason the taste varies is because of the time spent roasting the beans.

Over the years, Sundaram Coffee has acquired a wider customer base. People are now asking establishments to roast and grind black coffee, he says. “Many people are also buying coffee beans, soaking them in water and drinking the concoction to lose weight. Our market is now different from the crowd that used to come in,” he claims. .

Although business is not as good as it used to be, he says the new-age brands selling a variety of roasts do not compete seriously with these coffee roasters. “People in the area who have bought from us and their children all love the taste of our coffee. They know that for a great filter coffee, our blends work best,” he says. He added that original filter coffee will never go out of style.

Address: 91, South Usman Road, Postal Colony, T Nagar Tel: 24341984 Price: 155/250 grams

Roasted coffee beans.

Roasted coffee beans. | Photo credit: Johan Sathyadas Jay

How to make the perfect filter coffee
While these coffee roasters in Chennai have some conflicting recipes for making the perfect brew to make your cup of filter coffee, here’s our go-to recipe.

Preferably get a coffee filter made of stainless steel or brass.

Fill a quarter of the porous filter and gently press the powder to help settle it.

Continue to add more spoonfuls of coffee powder until it slightly exceeds the filter and press it down again, but this time with the back of the spoon.

Add boiling water up to the brim and cover the filter with a lid.

Experts believe that the broth tastes best after four hours of resting, but it should be done for 20 minutes.

Take one davara-tumbler Set and fill a quart glass with the broth.

Add freshly boiled milk to the mixture and add sugar to taste.

Enjoy your favorite newspaper (we recommend Hindu!)

Hot Topics

Related Articles