The Interview with Mithilesh​ ​Vazalwar


​Being​ ​a​ ​CA​ ​Student,​ ​how​ ​did​ ​you​ ​discover​ ​your​ ​passion​ ​towards​ ​Coffee?
I was inclined towards coffee from a very long time. While pursuing my CA, I went to Australia looking for business opportunities. So while I was planning to go to Australia, I thought I’d rather do a course as well in Coffee. I used to buy Coffee Beans, read books on it. During my stay in Australia, I got to meet a lot of Roasters, Baristas and Cafe Owners. The coffee culture there is insane. After experiencing all that, I realised that this is exactly I want to pursue. After I came back, I took a few days to research and plan. That is exactly when I came across a tweet by the owner of Blue Tokai, a roastery Cafe in Delhi. It so
happened that I was one of their first 50 followers. I joined them as a Coffee Roaster in September 2015 and worked till Feb 2017. This is how all started.

​You​ ​are​ ​certified​ ​as​ ​a​ ​Q​ ​Grader​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Coffee​ ​Quality​ ​Institute.​ ​Brief​ ​us​ ​about​ ​the​ ​exam.
Q Grading is an Internationally recognised exam which consists of 22 extremely challenging practical sensory tests spanning over a period of 6 days. It involves Cupping (Tasting) coffees from all over the world under strict rules and parameters and eventually detecting defects and scoring the coffee. The scoring is on determinants such as aroma, flavour, sweetness, aftertaste, acidity, body etc. Scores ranging from 6-10 are to be given on each parameter and increase by .25 (6-6.25-6.5-6.75 ….10). A coffee scoring 80+ is Specialty and below is Commercial. In the exams your scores should be calibrated with the instructor. Ex. If the instructor scores a coffee 83.75 your score should not be less than 81.75 – 85.75 approx.
The other tests include Triangulation’s, Lez ne Du aroma kit, Roast ID and a few others. Basically it is all practical and I had been preparing for the exam for 2 years. The experience was amazing! It was a tough week to be honest, to keep my taste buds fresh and sensitive to the minutest defects I was only on salad and hummus for 3 weeks before the exam and used to practice every single day. To learn from the Worlds best was something that has given me confidence and knowledge. By the end of the week we had tasted over 765+ Coffee samples and we were exhausted!

How does it feel to be the first Indian Aeropress Champion and also to be the first to represent​ ​India​ ​at​ ​the​ ​world​ ​Aeropress​ ​Championship​ ​at​ ​Seoul,​ ​South​ ​Korea?
Well to begin with, it did not sink in when the winner was announced as I was totally focused on getting through the strenuous competition mode hence I was relieved at first that the whole stress is over, but my friend there turned towards me and informed that I had won & now representing India! That is when it sank & the whole journey flashed before me, all the hard work & finding my way through, well it was one moment that nobody can take away from me. I will cherish it forever. It motivated me to work harder. Just to brag a bit, 1st in Indian history! (Laughs)

Now that you have won the Championship, how do you plan to channelise your knowledge​ ​&​ ​skill?
I will be travelling soon to Myanmar, El Salvador and the US as a consultant for setting up and expanding, sourcing the Coffee from all around the world, Roasting, Cupping and Setting, maintaining quality standards and working directly with the farmers. Also, I will be partnering in a project where essentially specialty coffee education will be of the core
focus. This project will also provide the Cafés, Home Brewers, Hotels with Freshly roasted coffee, giving them a chance to finally learn to make their own blend and serve it in their style. My mission is to present Indian Coffee on the world’s table and create an ecosystem where the learning is facilitated towards coffee.

How vast is the scope of Coffee education here in Nagpur and for the people who want to explore​ ​this​ ​field?
This city is where I have grown up and loved every bit of it. I am coming up with a Specialty Coffee Experience centre in Nagpur to give them a real coffee experience. Here I will be Roasting Coffee only on order and supplying to Cafés, Restaurants, Home brewers and hotels. Here we also will be helping Café’s existing and new to improve the coffee Right from Sourcing the beans, training them to brew the right way and serving. Home Brewers will also have a ball as they can buy Coffee and equipments to get the home game strong. My aim is to make people understand that coffee is beyond the Latte art on the cup. There is a Lot, we as Roasters and Q-Graders and the Real Heroes– Farmers, put in. People have questions like,” Does Nagpur have a market?” I always tell them one thing. I have trained
and consulted many people, not even one in India or Australia has ever gone back to a non specialty coffee experience. Nagpur sits in such position that we have good scope to first understand what speciality coffee is and then to have a Beautiful specialty café. Specialty means Expensive? No. It is all about Efforts and learning. Hence my message is simple Coffee has a lot to tell you, the story each cup has right from its Origin to your table will surprise you! You can have your own Café , work towards expanding your coffee knowledge practically and trust me there is an ocean out there of opportunities. Three Years back when I started, there was nobody to guide. Today I am more than happy to mentor.

To the strength Coffee has.