Meet Tapaswini Purnesh, heir to the renowned Bengaluru-based Classic Group.
She’s a fifth generation coffee planter whose family estates span the breadth of Sakleshpur and Chikmagalur in Karnataka. A coffee connoisseur and sommelier, she’s also a foodie and a trained chef from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. Now combining her passion for coffee and food, she’s experimenting with myriad online and offline platforms that promise to change the way Bengalureans (and the rest of her compatriots) drink coffee and dine. Meet Tapaswini Purnesh, heir to the renowned Bengaluru-based Classic Group, which has interests across real estate, hospitality, retail, distribution and coffee. In a chat with RITZ she lays bare her business plans, while delving into ‘exotic’ coffee beans derived from animal poop… yes, you read it right!
Elephant poop coffee? Your ears might cringe upon hearing this, but there’s more to come – like monkey parchment coffee, Jacu bird coffee, and Civet cat coffee – to tickle your palate. “It’s an intricate process of passing coffee beans through an elephant’s stomach and then collecting the beans from the poop. Civet cat and Jacu bird coffee is also somewhat similar, but extracted from the poop of the cat and the bird. But the monkey coffee is slightly different; it is produced from beans that are spit out by the monkey. Not just flavourful, all of these are some of the most expensive coffee varieties available anywhere in the world,” says the exuberant young coffee aficionado standing in front of us.
Growing up in her family estates of Harley and Kalledevarapura in the hills of Sakleshpur, she has forever been enveloped by the rich aroma of beans and freshly ground coffee. She knows the harvesting, roasting, grinding and brewing techniques like the back of her dainty hand.
Her mind is bubbling with business ideas and Tapaswini is now racing against time to execute them all. Ideas that heavily border on her passion for coffee and food.
The group presently retails two premium coffee brands – a pure Arabica blend (Classic Mountain) and a blend of Arabica and Robusta (Classic Pride) from gourmet stores in the country.
“We’ve been exporting specialty coffee all over the globe for decades now. We are now looking to launch more blends of roast and ground coffee here. The new range will be customised to suit the time of the day. In the morning, people prefer a slightly heavier blend to get that kick, while post lunch they would want something lighter. So yes, our new blends will be customised accordingly and we look to increase consumption in India,’’ says Tapaswini.
Even though India is the sixth largest coffee producer and exporter, per capita consumption stands at a minuscule 85-90 grams, compared to the couple of kilograms consumed per person per year in the Western countries.
“There needs to be more awareness about the blends, how to consume it in the correct manner, and how best to pair it with different foods.” For example, light bodied coffee goes well with crisp fruits like apple and pears. “While our medium bodied coffee is more compatible with slightly creamy short eats like a lemon tart or a bowl of fruit and custard.”
She’s been putting together workshops that encompass coffee tasting sessions at her tasting room in Bengaluru. Also on the threshold of a grand launch is Home Barista, an online educational platform with the sole objective to encourage coffee drinking through instructional videos on brewing, tasting notes and the busting of myths regarding coffee.
“We’re aiming to position coffee as a drink to unwind. Something you should indulge in a relaxed manner by savouring every sip. We want to get more and more people to start consuming coffee and we’re heading in that direction,” says the mechanical engineer, who claims her biggest contribution to the group has been “educating consumers. Although initially my target was primarily people in their 20s to 40s, we’ve been getting a lot of people in their late 60s and 70s excited about our coffee tasting and pairing sessions.”
Never one to be satisfied with merely working in the family group, the chirpy woman has capitalised on her entrepreneurial streak time and again. She started Bon Vivant, a gourmet food and liquor store in Bengaluru a few years ago, “giving a new direction to my passion for food and cooking.” Trying to create a niche amalgamation of coffee and wine, she conceptualised Berries and Barrels, a coffee-wine lounge, which unfortunately shut down “since the market wasn’t quite ready to embrace such a concept.”
But having a supportive family truly helps. Her father, Classic Group’s Managing Director DM Purnesh has encouraged her to experiment without worrying too much. “When Berries and Barrels didn’t do well, dad said failing is not the reason to give up. If you’re passionate about something, you should go ahead.”
With this sound advice, she’s now started a cute little venture, Tcake Co, that has her donning the chef’s hat and baking coffee-time treats like tarts, macaroons, cookies and brownies for tea parties, high teas and birthday parties. “Cooking is therapeutic. I’m now thinking of doing more with food, and with coffee. Maybe a café. I’m also dreaming of opening a tapas bar,” she reveals.
Ask her what her one goal is and she’d surprise you once again. “To travel, to experience new cultures and food. I work to travel and I work to eat. Anything that goes beyond coffee, travel and food will leave me yawning with boredom,” says Tapaswini, who’s tried all the unusual meats like crocodile, ostrich, sea urchins and snails.
Just back from a trip to Morocco, she claims to have visited Casablanca just to eat at a French restaurant by the ocean that serves some amazing fresh fish and foie gras. “I love learning how the locals live, taking public transport and driving wherever I can.” Her most adventurous jaunt has been getting stuck in a blizzard in Iceland and watching the snow-covered beach get laden with ash and wild horses running beside it.
Next on her agenda is to visit Sri Lanka during the New Year, “especially for the yum crab that you get at this restaurant called Ministry of Crab.”