Q & A
After 13 years with Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle, US, Deepa Hall, certified Starbucks Coffee Master, in India to set up operations for the launch, is as excitable as you would expect anyone who loves their coffee to be.
She runs you through the greatest coffee-growing regions of the world, extraction processes and the methods of roasting, brewing and blending coffee, before she and her team lead you through a tasting session; deftly pointing out how foods influence the notes and flavours in coffee.
The Kenya is paired with a fruity lemon cheesecake; the Sumatra with an oatmeal cookie; the Verona is perfect with chocolate and the Jamaica Blue gets an added kick with chocolate tempered with chilli. It could just be your morning cuppa, but it’s so much more to Hall. She wants, no needs, you to be excited about coffee.
“Blueberries,” she says, “have you smelled the blueberries in it, yeah?” she asks. You would be heartless to say no. Starbucks launched in India with an outlet at Horniman Circle, Mumbai, and has since opened two more: at the Oberoi Mall, Goregaon, Mumbai, and at The Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai. Edited excerpts from an interview:
You’ve relocated to India to see Starbucks launch here. What is it you leave behind and what is it you bring?
I bring passion for the brand, passion for the people I work with and passion for coffee. Some wonderful friends and co-workers is what I leave behind.
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? How many of those are for work and how many for pleasure?
It depends, I have anywhere between two-five cups of coffee a day. My first cup every morning, Sumatra, is my wake-up coffee and is all about pleasure. The rest are really part of my day at work and I enjoy them just as much.
As a Coffee Master, do you have a favourite roast of coffee?
As a Coffee Master, I love our dark roast coffees—in particular, Sumatra—but I also like our medium roasts, with Kenya being one of my favourites.
What sort of training does it take to be a Coffee Master?
It takes great passion for coffee, the knowledge of the journey from bean to cup and a lot of education around our roasts, blends, regions and the Starbucks history. Education is one part, but the ability to bring the passion and knowledge of coffee to life in the store is what I love most about being a Coffee Master.
What varieties of flavours do you find within the notes of coffee? What’s a good range for beginners to look out for?
Citrusy like the grapefruit, earthy like freshly fallen rain, roasted like a corn on the cob and nutty like walnuts or almonds. Beginners can look at learning the difference in notes between regions like Kenya and Sumatra and then move on to understand various roast profiles.
What’s an absolute no-no for coffee-brewing?
The four fundamentals of coffee for a perfect cup are—the quality of water, freshness of the coffee, how we grind it/which brewing method is used and finally the measurement/proportion of coffee. Each one is important in delivering that perfect cup of coffee.
Any tricks to sleep well after ingesting that much caffeine?
I drink plenty of water throughout the day and always seem to sleep well.
When was your last cup of instant coffee-machine coffee? Do you like south Indian filter coffee at all?
I always try to carry my Starbucks cup of coffee with me—Starbucks VIA Ready Brew is our instant coffee, and this way I can always enjoy a great premium cup of instant coffee on-the-go. I’m originally from south India and have always been fond of south Indian filter coffee.