We have been working and collaborating with Marc from Marc’s Coffee since quite a while, so we were very excited when he invited us to a brewing session in his café and roast house.
Marc fell in love with coffee when he was 23 years old and he never looked back. After leaving his coffee shop in Spain, he joined Auroville in 1996, in a time when he also started his research on high-quality coffee grown and crafted in India. In 2008 he founded the unit Coffee Ideas, which roasts his organic, fair-trade and UTZ-certified beans. He went on a mission to supply the high-quality coffee that is grown and harvested in India to the Indian market, rather than exporting it like everyone else. Ten years ago one of his main jobs was to go around and convince farmers to supply to him, but today they share his excitement and the word spreads.
After getting into the coffee business, a café with a roasting machine and an opportunity to sit down and have a taste of the lovely brew soon followed. Now, most people probably know Marc’s Coffee through the Dreamer’s Café in Visitor’s centre, a popular coffee house and ice cream parlour that operates out of a charmingly recycled shipping container.
Our brewing session takes place in the ‘Living Room,’ a snug area of Marc’s Café in Kuilapalayam that usually functions as an unofficial office space for Aurovilians, who come to the café to meet and work. While preparing the beans, cups, and brewing devices, Marc tells us the story of coffee. Originally, coffee could be found all over South America, but the only country in the world that grew and exported coffee was Yemen. From the harbour in Mokha, the beans were shipped to places all over the world. The Yemenis, in a smart business move, tried to make sure that they would remain the only ones to trade the black gold by boiling the beans for a few seconds, making the seed infertile. The story goes that an Indian Sufi discovered the magic of the black drink during a meditative dance of the dervishes. He smuggled seven live beans to India and planted the crops in the hills of Karnataka. Today, India is in the top-ten coffee exporters of the world. We thank this Sufi every morning!
On the counter, Marc prepares three types of coffee for us, explaining that his core business is the roast, which transforms the flavour of the beans. Long years of research and experience have brought him a specific roasting technique that brings out aromas unique to Marc’s coffee. Before Marc roasts his beans, they need to be collected and dried. He explains that there are three basic ways to do that.
Number one is to dry the full coffee fruit under the sun, including the fleshy red pulp; this will result in a coffee type known as a ‘natural coffee.’ This type has a relatively sweet taste, because the natural sugar will stay inside the bean. The second way to process the bean is to remove the fruit pulp with a pulping machine, leaving just the bean to be washed and fermented. The length of the fermentation process depends on the traditional process of the farmer. This crafted coffee is called a ‘specialty coffee’ because the process needs care and attention at every single step. The third possibility of processing coffee is to remove the pulp and naturally dry the beans under the sun, leaving out the fermentation. Marc explains that between these three coffee types is a “huge, huge, huge, difference. None of them is the best coffee, they are just very different.”
So which coffee to buy? In case you want a fruity coffee, it’s best to choose a naturally dried coffee like Buma Devi, which has a very sweet flavour. If the coffee bean is washed, the sweet taste goes away, but other flavours emerge and these beans can have more of a note of citrus and spice. Then, there is the important difference between the Arabica and Robusta coffee strains. Arabica produces a long and narrow bean, while Robusta gives a round bean. With a smile on his face Marc goes on to say that Arabica is like the feminine side of coffee, giving you aroma and delicate tastes, while Robusta is the masculine side, with a strong and full body. If you bring both together like yin and yang, you can craft incredible blends that have a beautiful balance. His Buma Devi is one of them, with 50% Robusta and 50% Arabica. If you are looking for a wakeup call, go for a blend with more Robusta, but if you would like to have a nice coffee in the afternoon, Marc recommends an Arabica. Robusta has double the amount of caffeine compared to Arabica, so it can be smart to move from Robusta blends in the morning to Arabica blends in the evening.
Robusta is, like the name explains, a more robust coffee that can grow in lower altitudes and is more resistant to pests. The Arabica plants require a higher altitude, more rain and a lot of care. Growing Arabica organically is very difficult because as they are susceptible to pests. Farmers need to have a special understanding and knowledge about the crop to make sure it stays free of insects; this is why certified organic coffees are usually costly compared to non-organic ones.
So after all these great insights we finally brewed some coffee! We tasted three different brews that were made with different devices, like a cold drip and a chemist machine. Marc recommends that we grind the coffee at home, because 50% of the flavour will be lost after a week of opening a pack of ground coffee. Furthermore, he advises to use 7 to 12 grams of coffee for an espresso, with about-to-boil water at a temperature of 85C. The perfect serving temperature will then be 65C.
We tasted the coffees with full attention, discussing flavours and learning about brewing techniques from various places. After two hours we were fuelled on coffee, our bags filled with different blends, and ready to go. Definitely an energetic boost to the day!
If you too would like to have a brewing session, then contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Happy to make a high-quality home brew? You can find Marc’s Coffee in Auroville’s Online Store over here.
We are curious: what is your favourite flavour, Arabica, Robusta, or yin and yang? Let us know in the comments!