Bimal might seem like a regular barista. Bimal isn’t content to brew and make coffee. He wants each customer to know exactly what they’re going to drink.
I make sure they know what their coffee tastes like. I ask them about their preference for taste and how strong they prefer their coffee. He says that most people will accept what I suggest, even if they have other ideas.
Bimal quit his job as a chef at a top-rated restaurant in the wake of the pandemic and joined HumbleBean coffee to become a barista. He had no previous knowledge in the industry and was enrolled in an intensive course at HumbleBean. He was able to better understand the beverage, from its plantation through the various brewing methods.
HumbleBean Coffee has a small coffee shop hidden under the lush greenery of Bengaluru’s Lavelle Road. Bimal might be found sniffing out and sampling every cup of coffee he makes on a daily basis.
HumbleBean coffee is the brainchild Soomanna and Puja Mandepanda . The couple have been working together since 2017 to make coffee drinking more enjoyable and mindful. Their goal is to share the complexity and variety of coffee beans with more people.
To spread coffee literacy, the HumbleBean Espresso Academy was established in Coorg in 2021. The academy offers short-term training for coffee lovers, home brewers and students interested in hotel management or coffee entrepreneurs.
Coorg and Bengaluru are home to the 22 person team, which includes co-founders, brew station staff and experts in coffee education. HumbleBean currently has one Bengaluru coffee brew station and an online B2C channel, which sells different types of coffee beans. In Indiranagar, a new coffee concept store has opened. It will replace the manual brewbar in a few months.
According to filings with the Registrar of Companies HumbleBean had a revenue of around Rs 1.1 million for FY21.
The coffee startup raised an angel round in July 2022 of Rs. 4.5 Crore from undisclosed investors.
As Soomanna, co-founder of HumbleBean prepares his favorite pour-over, it is easy to recall the days when he felt the need for a cleaner coffee industry.
The primary goal of the coffee academy was to make sure everyone involved in the coffee industry was knowledgeable about the beverage.
The team started by looking at the lack of a system to provide feedback for coffee farmers. To make changes in the farming practices and improve quality, a feedback system was vital.
“More that 85% of Indian coffee farmers, mostly small and medium-sized farmers, have never tried their coffee.” Soomanna states that they are not aware of the appreciation for their coffee around the globe.
Free samples of coffee are provided to the coffee academy by more than 100 coffee farmers from across the country. The team provides suggestions and prepares detailed reports about the quality of each sample. Farmers bring in suggestions for changes to their farming methods and send samples to the academy.
The academy offers classes that teach you how to brew coffee and how to pair food with it. For those who are interested in beverage management, these courses can last for one to three days or up to three months. These courses are priced between Rs 10,000 to Rs 35,000.
HumbleBean has partnered with an Indian hotel management college to offer these courses for a semester.
Puja believes that there is a need for barista training in the early years.
Baristas are more than just serving coffee. This is especially true today, when manual brewing has been recognized. We deliberately select people who don’t know much about coffee, and are more open to learning,” she said.
Puja is responsible for the barista training with Gaurav Ganapathi. Gaurav is a Q grader, a type of coffee evaluator, and leads the Coffee Academy in Coorg. Gaurav has been working in the coffee industry since 2014. He also worked previously for Tata Starbucks.
Pastry chef Sana Kabra joined HumbleBean in March 2022 and works closely with Puja, Gaurav, and runs the food pairing courses at HumbleBean.
The coffee experience is incomplete without food pairing. Sana explains that it is important to know what kind of pastry goes best with a pour over, and what level of roast or grind you should use in order for your coffee to go well with a croissant.
The pandemic is over
HumbleBean was affected by the pandemic just like any brick-and-mortar company. The operational problems caused the closure of their first manual brewbar in Residency Road Bengaluru in 2019.
The brand also collaborated with a high end retail outfit GoNative to open a model brew bar at Lavelle Road.
HumbleBean’s team used the pandemic to gather data on customer perceptions of manual brewed coffees and coffees from small and medium-sized farms. They also studied the economics of a coffee brand. They also created a range coffee beverages and a delivery system.
We also consolidated our backend work, such as the academy, small and mid-sized farm outreach, plantation management, and flavour science in relation to food pairing with coffee. We have a core group of experts in roasting, plantation management and flavour science. Many of them are third-generation small coffee farmers who have worked in large coffee companies,” Soomanna said.
Brighten your future
Research and Markets has published a report that indicates Indian retail coffee is heavily dominated by the south. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) 21.04% between 2017 and 2025.
HumbleBean’s goal is to tap this market while competing against major brands such as Starbucks, Barista and Tim Hortons.
“We are aware of the competition, but we also know that every person who comes into our cafe knows how to make coffee and is eager to learn more. Soomanna states that we are relying on word-of-mouth marketing over any other strategies.
HumbleBean will open its first concept store in Indiranagar (Bengaluru). It will also be the second location of the coffee academy, and the second manual brew station.
The startup plans to expand its reach to other countries in Asia-Pacific.
Soomanna states that the final goal is to establish HumbleBean in India as a global brand that’s sustainable, grounded and invests in the place where production.