Brewing the perfect South Indian filter coffee is a dying art. Of ten passionate coffee enthusiasts who drink the brew outside their home, nine would not trust the concoction unless it emanates from a traditional south Indian hotel, says Harold Pereira, an agricultural entrepreneur.
The hot reviving mixture has to be perfectly brewed, which Pereira insists is a rather cumbersome process. “The coffee powder has to be steeped overnight in a percolator, and only then can one drink it in the morning. It is a messy, time-consuming affair. Plus, filter coffee does not stay good for more than two hours after it is brewed,” insists Pereira, a third-generation coffee planter from Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka.
To provide south Indian filter coffee, he teamed up with his brother Gerald Pereira. What followed was a tale of dedication, innovation, failure and determination, before the duo could pour out the perfect, ready-to-use filter coffee decoction and open The True South Company for business.
“The idea was conceived 16 years ago,” says Harold Pereira, the 53-year-old CEO, “and it is only our undeterred dedication that has seen us struggle for so long.” With coffee estates boasting of Arabica and Robusta beans, Pereira says it was a matter of time before other family members were roped in to help prepare the perfect brew.
“The actual decoction is a family secret,” smiles Pereira, remembering the taxing R&D process and the many mixtures that did not see the light of day. “Making filter coffee is not just an art, but a science. We took a long time to research this and finally could crack it. But we realised we had failed, for the coffee would not taste good after 3-4 days. We were heartbroken,” he adds.
Persevering, the duo went back to the lab. “We didn’t give up and decided to add preservatives and try to hold the coffee. We wanted it to stay okay for a month-and-a-half, but the taste profile had changed completely. It did not have the kick of coffee,” he adds.
Flexible pouch packaging
They then hit on the “flexible packaging process. We did not want to use either glass bottles or plastic, but wanted it convenient for people to use.” This gave birth to the unique flexible pouch packaging. However, a major hurdle could not be surpassed. Ten years of research followed the realisation that the taste profile deteriorated rapidly with time. The R&D team, comprising KV Murthy, Allan Rodrigues and KSN Prasad, spent countless hours in the Mysuru facility brewing different blends and trying out different methods to achieve the challenging shelf-life of the decoction.
“With time and much iteration, we were able to slowly increase the shelf life of the product.
Without preservatives, we managed to get the coffee to stay good for two months. Today, we have a product that stays good for five months. Once it is opened though, it has to be used in 8-10 days,” Pereira adds.
From picking and roasting the beans, to brewing and packaging the decoction, each step is now a breeze, but the luxury hotel chains and quick service restaurants where it is available, appreciate the product for its convenience, consistency and cost effectiveness; it is available online too.
Pereira is not done yet. “We have put in our life’s savings into this. We have not borrowed and have no investors. Today, we have an end-to-end solution for filter coffee. Right from brewing the powder to the ready-to-use category, we cover it all. We have also developed and designed machinery related to the coffee industry,” Pereira says, adding that certain hotel chains are interested in both the machine and the decoction, to taste the freshness.
“Many ITC hotels use our machines. Windsor Manor, Lemon Tree, Crown Plaza, many top hotel brands in Kochi, Delhi, Mumbai, Aurangabad, Hyderabad, and Chennai also have True South machines for coffee enthusiasts,” he says, adding that the product would soon be launched in Bengaluru. “Mumbai is next, followed by Hyderabad and Chennai,” he adds.