Coffee fest returns to Bangalore with aroma

Bangalore, Jan 22: As the country’s coffee capital, Bangalore is, after a four-year hiatus, hosting again the India International Coffee Festival (IICF-2014) from Thursday to spread the brew’s aroma.

Held biennially since 2002 by stakeholders, including growers, roasters, traders and exporters with state support, the previous fourth edition of the three-day fest was held in New Delhi in January 2012 to create greater awareness and promote the beverage in non-traditional areas where tea and other soft drinks are consumed more.

“Though about 70 percent of the coffee produced is exported, we are focused on promoting consumption across the country, as the beverage is traditionally sipped more in south India,” Coffee Board chairman Jawaid Akthar told IANS ahead of the trade event.

Growing popularity of cafe chains like Barista, Coasta Coffee, Coffee Day, Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Lavazza and Starbucks across metros and cities has made the brew a fashionable drink among the youth, constituting 45 percent of the 1.2-billion people.

“Coffee consumption has been growing five-six percent annually since 2005 after being stagnant for a long time. Bean consumption increased to 115,000 tonnes in 2011 from 50,000 tonnes in 2005 on growth of value-added products and instant coffee,” Akhtar recalled.

Unlike tea, where 80 percent of its production is consumed across the country, per capita consumption of coffee in India is still 90gm as against 12kg in Finland, highest in the world, 6-9kg in Europe, South America and North America, and 4-5kg in rest of the world.

“Though consumption nearly doubled over the last decade, India lags far behind developed countries and even coffee-producing nations in South America due to various factors, including production being limited traditionally to southern states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” Akthar pointed out.

Steady economic growth, increasing urbanisation and growing consumer class in the new workforce have, however, redefined drinking habits and made coffee a preferred choice for the refreshing change it brings in a variety of flavours.

“A growing number of youth taking to coffee in metros and cities across the country is an encouraging sign for us. As coffee culture spreads, the trend is turning into a lifestyle, thanks to the advantage of demographic dividend,” Coffee Day president Venu Madhav told IANS here.

Buoyed by the overwhelming response to the flagship fest over the past decade, the Coffee Board of the union commerce ministry and India Coffee Trust of the industry have been able to attract about 60 overseas and domestic firms, over 1,000 delegates and 40 global experts to participate in the event’s fifth edition and showcase products and technologies.

“India is at an inflection point in developing its coffee market. With newer formats, services and new entrants, we see people’s familiarity and affinity with the brew transforming,” Hindustan Unilever executive director Geetu Verma noted on the occasion.

With a view to doubling the per capita consumption to 180gm by this decade, the event will focus on the `changing face of coffee’ and experts will deliberate on production and marketing trends, while other stakeholders will hold skill-building workshops on processing, roasting and brewing.

“We have undertaken the mission to develop and propel the Indian coffee sector as a global player and increase its footprint across the country. Towards that end, the fest serves as an ideal platform to train and orient new entrants wanting to be part of the sector,” India Coffee Trust president and leading grower Anil Kumar Bhandari told IANS.

The fest is expected to attract about 10,000 visitors from India and abroad, who will be treated to a variety of flavours ranging from black coffee, cold coffee, iced coffee to spice coffee by global retail chains, brands and instant makers.

“As part of promoting the brew and creating awareness of its health benefits, a coffee quiz I being held first time in the fest. About 106,000 people have participated from across the country in the preliminary rounds to qualify for the quiz final at the fest,” Bhandari said.

Special awards will be given as recognition to best coffees, baristas (the persons who serve coffee in bars), curers, roasters and tasters during the fest.

IANS