Araku Coffee’s Flagship Cafe in Bangalore Makes Sustainability Sexy

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The flagship Bengaluru coffee from Araku Coffee, a brand whose origins can be traced back to a tribal fair trade cooperative in Andhra Pradesh, looks anything but an offshoot of an NGO. It’s sleek, minimal, and all-white with details that speak a sophisticated design language. It’s the work of Jorge Zapata, founder of New York-based firm JAZ Architect, who worked with Shonan Purie Trehan as his Indian partner to get this project off the ground, with both designers committed to the principles of sustainability. “We wanted people to linger, to have a sense of serenity, calm and community,” says Zapata. Trehan adds, “It wasn’t like we were designing an aesthetic. We were designing an experience.”

That experience starts with the Modbar, a proprietary piece of equipment that “allows the customer and the barista to have an open exchange,” says Trehan. With the large block of a coffee machine out of the way, the view opens up to the back of the cafe, where books and objects are stacked behind a floating staircase, which further leads to an upper floor with a private dining room. , an outdoor terrace, a computerized roastery and a coffee academy. The other key element of the cafe experience is the food, led by chef Rahul Sharma, former sous-chef at Mumbai restaurant Masque. It serves a zero-waste menu, with organic ingredients sourced from farmers in the Araku Valley and from Araku’s own farm outside Bengaluru.

A view of the modbar and dining area in front of the shelves at AKFD’s Jaipur studio at Araku’s flagship cafe in Bengaluru.

Courtesy of Araku Cafe

Araku Coffee is the product of over two decades of work by the Hyderabad-based Naandi Foundation in the Araku Valley, a Naxalite-dominated part of Andhra Pradesh. Naandi began by organizing tribal communities into self-sustaining cooperatives and then equipping them with scientific knowledge drawn from the biorhythmic cycles of nature. Over the years, this has made farming more profitable and sustainable for thousands of farmers. “If the condition of farmers is to improve, we must ask ourselves: has the producer made a profit from the food we eat?” says CEO Manoj Kumar. “Therefore, to inspire people to eat better, we went from working only with farmers to opening the cafe.” That kind of thinking, says Trehan — who at the time the project started was learning about permaculture — is what led to an instant meeting of minds.

Snapshots of the picking, transportation and processing stages at Araku Coffee.

Courtesy of Araku Cafe

Courtesy of Araku Cafe

Courtesy of Araku Cafe

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