Founders | Siddhant Keshav of Devan Coffee
Being a coffee enthusiast I had to take a trip to the newly opened coffee bar in Delhi by Devan's, where I met Siddhant, a third-generation coffee entrepreneur who made me a cup of Turkish coffee even though it was not on the menu. Local small businesses and the people behind it have always been of interest to me and Devan's got me intrigued as it is a heritage coffee business (since 1962) and one can see they are not trying too hard to be the next 'go-to' cafe in the city but cater to a loyal community of coffee lovers. I decided immediately I wanted to learn more about their journey and of course about coffee!
It all started
Siddhant shared that he was born in a South Indian family, where coffee drinking had been a tradition. He reminisces, 'As a child, I remember waking up each and every single day, to the whole house wafting with the wonderful aroma of coffee. I started drinking coffee at the young age of 15. Though my family always enjoyed coffee with milk and sugar somehow I got hooked on black coffee. A cup of warm black coffee jump starts my day. Very often my mother would wake me up with a cup of coffee and ask me to guess which beans were used for the cup! Somehow this game would force me to sharpen my sensory skills and over a period of time, it was not too difficult to distinguish the tasting notes of coffees. My father joined the business at a very young age after my grandfather expired. At home, conversations have always been centring around coffee and tea. I remember visiting my coffee shop on weekends and getting fascinated by gunny sacks full of green beans and roasted beans. Diving my hand deep inside those gunny bags and the tinkling sounds of the roasted beans was thrilling. As a child, I used to wonder about the nature of my father's business. The sight of Huge roasting machines and sounds of commercial grinders used to amaze me. Sampling and cupping of coffees were performed at home and though I had not much sense of the tasting notes I was still a part of it and my father used to explain me the different notes of coffees. Since childhood, I was always aware of the exclusivity of the nature of our family business.'
Further chatting with Siddhant, I was curious which coffee was of the highest quality and immediately he opted for the Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee. To learn more about his work, I wondered if all artisanal products could deliver a standard quality and Siddhant shared that ‘ there could be a bit of a change if the farming or roasting was different but only a master could tell.’ The major difference in the Indian market and abroad was the consistency provided by the farmers. He feels that we have a lot more to learn to maintain the standard of the crop. I gathered that even if we are not native coffee drinkers, the demand is raising but the attitude of the industry to supply should also match this. Laughingly he shares only on more cafe that does good coffee in the city, which is the United coffee house, another heritage coffee establishment.Europe and USA are similar in the cafe culture, however, South America and Africa have richer traditions in the community around coffee. It can be agreed that Italians have put coffee onto the world map however people are now more aware of other coffees which have given birth to a demand of single origin coffees. Now a client could ask for Colombian coffee or an Indian coffee whereas earlier a cup at a chain store could have a Brazilian coffee with Ethiopian coffee and the customer would not know the difference. Siddhant shares that he takes help of a taster who sends him samples from which he picks his coffees every season. He adds that Berlin has been experimenting with extracting and roasting and it is interesting to note that there are many Germans who are roasters. Sydney and Melbourne are also experimentation and coming up with no concoctions widening the prospects of coffee businesses.
Siddhant shares how he learnt the art and craft of the coffee business after he finished school, ‘I had developed a keen interest in coffee. I travelled to the Coffee Plantations in my holidays and Learned about the processing involved in the curing of the beans. I took classes at the coffee lab in Bangalore from Ms Sulini Menon who is a renowned cup taster in India. Then I attended the coffee course conducted by the coffee board of India. During the days I was going to college and evenings I was going to work at my coffee shop. From Roasting to packing, I involved myself in this trade seriously. And for all the summers while in college, I was already attending international coffee fairs in Europe. I have been a member of the speciality coffee association of Europe for 7 years now and have probably attended all the courses, from sensory to barista classes. I’ve worked for a coffee company based in Vienna, Austria as a Barista. Coffee processing involves various aspects, from roasting to grinding, packaging and retaining at our unit, but I am enjoying being a Barista and my favourite city in the world for is Vienna. I have spent a lot of time there learning and working in cafes.’
The coffee bar serves 20 different coffees and the customer can experience something new every time they visit Devan’s. Siddhant shares that the cafe has been a very recent addition to the business and it is something that has been entirely his venture. “ So far our business was only to source beans from the south, Roast it here, (retailing and wholesaling) it fresh in the form of beans or powder from our unit. Currently, I’m giving all my devotion to the serving part of the cafe. Customers are enjoying the tasting notes of different coffees available and making their Choice of coffees they wish to purchase. I think we’re the only ones to have started this in India. We are sourcing imported green beans like Ethiopian, Colombian, Guatemala, and Mexican and roasting it fresh here. People get the chance to taste different coffees from other parts of the world and even create their own blends. What really sets us apart from any other Roasters in India is that we the widest collection of coffees where customers create their own blends.
Fortunately, we have a very dedicated clientele, so they are now enjoying their cup of coffee and getting to interact with us more. Since I am personally tending the bar, I take care of their choice of coffees. I have a lot of expats and foreigners visiting my cafe, interacting with people from various countries is an experience in itself. Discussing the different coffee traditions, food and culture keep the conversations flowing, and interacting with them on a regular basis have resulted in making more friends in life
What makes devan’s special
An authentic homegrown hyperlocal business that brings the bean to cup in the most community led and sustainable way. How? A rack full of vintage coffee souvenirs from around the world and some gifted by customers caught my attention. My favourite was the old Turkish grinder and gold filter coffee maker. One can see the tight community and the human connection around these souvenirs. Siddhant shared that they give waste coffee to independent farmers and customers who have gardens to use as fertilizers.
What to buy/ order?
The cold brew coffee sachets for working creatives to brew their own coffee
Ethiopian coffee brewed in a Syphon (Clear and flavourful)
Organic coffee brewed in an AeroPress or Pour over ( if you want to enjoy a big mug of coffee)
Espresso ( 15gms shot i.e Strong and Baristas favourite!)
Experiment with coffee pairings by serving with sundried flowers or honey.
More than 80% of the people are using instant coffee, an alternative could be an Italian stovetop pot
Natural textile dyers could fetch coffee waste from Devan’s