Mumbai is a sensational city. India's economic capital, the home base of Bollywood, is a food-loving metropolis, offering a pleasing, intense mixture of stimuli. There is always something around the corner to experience, eat, or drink in Mumbai.
The beverage of choice here is not coffee, but chai. The tapri chaiwallah (chai vendor) is as prevalent here as a bagel shop is in New York City or palm trees are in Hollywood. Sold in tiny 7mL cups and consumed multiple times a day, the chaiwallah's job never ends. Chai (as many westerners now know) is generally prepared using black tea, sugar, and one of several spices, including saffron, ginger, and lemongrass. Each chaiwallah prides themselves on their technique and produces several hundred liters of the stuff daily for the insatiable thirst of the Mumbaikar.
Mumbai's first real exposure to espresso-based beverages was in 1996, when the national chain Cafe Coffee Day, or CCD, opened its bright interiors to the country. A menu of espresso, cappuccinos, lattes, and sweetened espresso beverages, iced and cold was offered up in a stylish, comfortable setting. A big hit among students and urban professionals, the chain capitalized on sugary-sweet beverages presented in kitschy cups. Today, the big green giant Starbucks has also found its niche in Mumbai as it increases locations and tests the limits of expensive coffee. A testament to the wealth and spending habits of Mumbai is that a cup of coffee costs more at a Starbucks in India than it does anywhere in the world. And its profitability is growing.
The Third Wave initially hit Mumbai in 2009 when theindianbean.co and Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters started selling their ethically sourced coffee beans from single farms across southern Indian states. South India is the prevalent grower of coffee in India. Baba Budan, a Sufi saint, is said to have smuggled seven coffee beans to India in the 16th century and planted them in what is today known as Chikmagalur.
Today, Mumbai’s coffee scene is an amalgamation of hungry entrepreneurs and self-taught or professionally trained coffee enthusiasts. Some are trying to expand their presence overseas, while others are consciously choosing to remain local. For lovers of coffee, all this means is something that can be best phrased using a Hindi colloquialism: “picture abhi baki hain“—the show is just getting started.
Let's dive in.
Kalopsia Artisan Coffee
Co-founder Aasma Khan is a passionate barista trainer with five years of coffee experience. Today, along with wildlife researcher Prakash Borana, she’s created a bright, fun, and quaint space to exhibit some of the finest Indian coffees. Focused on microlots and rare varieties, Kalopsia is the newest cafe on this list, but if you’re a true speciality coffee lover, the first sip will be enough to convince you that it's by far one of the best coffee shops in Mumbai today. They face some stiff competition with some major chain coffee and tea shops situated right next to them, but their moderate pricing and exemplary service are getting them noticed—and fast.
One of the two shops in the country using Sanremo espresso machines, they’re pulling the most consistent shots of coffee I’ve had the pleasure of tasting in a decade. Definitely try the microlot Tattvamasi for a bright, juicy and creamy mouthfeel of pomegranate, jackfruit, and orange rind. Khan and Borana's attention to detail can be found in the beautifully hand-painted décor and most definitely in every single coffee they serve.
Founded by a trio, now the show is run entirely run by one man: Australia native Shannon D'Souza. D'Souza's grandfather owns and runs a coffee farm in South India and has been consistently delivering speciality coffee to Australia and other countries for decades. Combining the family tradition of coffee and his love for the Sydney coffee culture, D'Souza is making just more than amazing flat whites in Mumbai. Inside his cozy Chium Village cafe, you'll find a complete black interior with a majestic Probat 150 taking up most of the space. Initially, customers would put their coffee cups to rest inside the cooling tray of the Probat, leading D'Souza to innovate an actual tabletop for the machine. You can sip an Amrut-cask-aged pour-over from the Kelagur Estate or have it as a honey-processed dark roast, served on the actual roaster!
Their Maravullah espresso is to date one of the most flavorful espressos I've had in Mumbai—by a long kilometer. The small cafe gets busy with regulars chatting away with each other as well as the baristas. The local expat community and older native residents have welcomed KC Roasters with open arms into their Mumbai.
Blue Tokai Coffee
Everything about Blue Tokai Coffee fits right in with what you'd expect from a modern speciality coffee shop. Subdued colors, easy-going vibes, and a happy mingling of coffee driven people. A small shelf offers a variety of manual brewing equipment and accessories along with roast-date-printed coffee bags. Founders Matt Chitharanjan and Namrata Asthana started Blue Tokai as an e-commerce platform, selling coffee beans and equipment online before opening their cafe. (They also feature some of the best sesame seed bagels in Mumbai.) Blue Tokai roasts its own coffees, sourced ethically from farms across India. They also work closely with some small farmers to ensure fair prices and try to get as involved in the harvesting process as possible. Try the Vienna Roast pour-over or request a Silver Oaks blend as an AeroPress if you're longing for floral, raisin, and nut tasting notes.
The shop is always filled with a smattering of TV and film personalities, directors, and aspiring screenwriters due to several film offices in the neighborhood. The shop is also a stone's throw away from the recently cleaned up Versova Beach, giving you a perfect excuse to grab a coffee on the go.
Bombay Island Coffee Roasters
Opened in 2018 Bombay Island Coffee Roasters offers superior coffee in an industrial warehouse setting. Cofounder Rupal Jain, a chartered accountant by profession, fell in love with coffee while studying for her accounting exams. So much so that she decided to leap to Singapore to obtain her SCA certification for coffee roasting. The first thing she did after returning was to buy a Probat 150 and start roasting. Today, Bombay Island supplies coffee to cruise ships, restaurants, and small coffee shops around the country. Located in Malad, Bombay Island Coffee Roasters resembles a hipster cafe that you'd find in any nook of the world. A wide variety of coffee paraphernalia adorns its neatly organized shelves. Coffee decals are stuck onto the walls, a Nuova Simonelli espresso machine tops the bar, and the star of the shop is the roaster, positioned for all to marvel at. An ode to the spices of India, their signature spiced iced latte features freshly ground star anise, cinnamon, and nutmeg combined to make a delicious coffee experience.
Dhaval Mehta is a digital marketing consultant based in Mumbai, India. This is Dhaval Mehta's first feature for Sprudge.