Cat’s personal journey started from a desire to seek answers to many health symptoms, she was led to look inward to her family history of coffee production. Howl for Coffee isn’t just a coffee trader, but a vehicle for Cat & Leo to make natural foods accessible to more starting with coffee.
We invite you to get to know Catherine Ganapathy on her specialty coffee journey and how Howl for Coffee is part of this small group leading the charge on the push of specialty coffee in India.
The interview was recorded live on Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 on Instagram, hosted by Carmen Cheang on CoffeeOn, our Sunday program featuring inspirational individuals for a coffee chat.
Q: Tell us more about where you are at currently?
I am currently in Mysore (Mysuru), Karnataka, India. It is about a 2 hours drive from Coorg where the coffee farm is, and it is also where my dad is from. I moved here 2 years ago, from Singapore.
A fun fact about Mysore, Karnataka, it’s also a well known yoga town, during yoga seasons when the chalets are open, the city is filled with yoga students wandering in the streets going for yoga and coffee.
Q: How and when did your love affair with coffee begin?
My story with coffee preceded with a focus on natural foods.
My parents met in Vancouver, Canada and there’s where I was born. My family is native to Coorg, India and Hong Kong. And I really started changing my relationship with food, I hit a point in where I have been prescribed with symptoms and illness, and that is how it all started - being able to experiment with food and drinks, being more mindful of where I shop, where I buy, and knowing where the food and drinks we put in our body is from.
I went through trial and error, and it made me realize that there is a relationship that I can adjust to have a positive effect on living, and the hardest part is having access to all of that. I want to be a part of giving access to specialty food, and it made sense to start with coffee because of my family history in coffee production. It’s hard to live there and not be involved in coffee. You’re connected to coffee in some ways.
We felt that coffee is the right way, we met good people and there is something really special about Specialty Coffee. From Barista, Roasters, Q-Graders, Buyers, Suppliers, Producers, everyone is so curious to push the boundaries of their understanding to improve things for the better. It was parallel with what I want to do with Specialty food and that's how my love affair started and it grew from there!
Q: Share with us what Howl for coffee does and what does it want?
It’s all about the journey of finding a relationship with coffee.
Howl for coffee is specific for food. Howl and kodama, is all about helping people to get access to natural foods. We are distributors, we source, we verify. What we want is to find the natural rhythm of the day in the life of farmers when it comes to crops, and what we see at the end as a consumers. Getting into the melody of the rhythm of the daily life of farmers and making that accessible to more.
Q: What are the importance of inter cropping?
Intercropping and shade grown systems have been preserved and passed down since the 18th century, generation to generation have been practicing this without even knowing what it's called. Me coming in and learning about it put me in a unique position to realize that we don’t know much because everything here is kept low profile.
The importance of intercropping are soil nutrition to feed the plants with it's bio-diverse environments. Coffee farmers don't have to rely so much on store-bought fertilizer, because the nutrients coming from other plants. They are essentially sharing the same nutrients together, it's also a great home for insects and worms to do their work. With this, you will find flowers surrounding the farms and this will help to welcome the bees for pollination. In the agricultural sense, it’s a big part of keeping the natural state of things. When you think about intercropping, all these micro and macro nutrients are here naturally, it’s a beautiful thing.
You will find growth of other lively and nutritious fruits that people can eat, and that is the part that I am most interested in. In the community sense, animals are great feedback loops for farmers, when animals do come and eat your crop, means it's good. We all always striving to find a balance to welcome the animals without destroying much of the crops.
Q: Where does specialty stand in India coffee production?
Our common perception is that India is known to be a tea drinking country. Coffee on the other hand has been more low-profile, but we enjoyed both beverages almost equally!
Specialty Coffee in India is similar to the world scene, it’s a vibrant community that makes up of a small percentage of the large trade and that’s the reality. I also feel like India is a country rich with artisanal craft makers from textiles, arts, sculpture to food and beverages. We represent a small group, I feel very good about supporting other like-minded craft makers from different industries grow at the same pace, if not faster.
Q: What are the obvious and subtle ways that coffee culture is changing there?
I can share the two sides of the spectrum, large scale commercial coffee drinking which i do participate in, and that will remain strong as part of the culture here. Coffee is part of work, life and it’s integrated in the grind, the demand for quick fix and the fuss-free brewing methods will always be part of what makes India coffee culture unique.
On a smaller scale, there are some subtle culture changes. There’s more access to equipment for home brewers so that people can do things differently, now they can have experiments and this is when collaboration happens. That small scale, two-wheeler coffee cart, home brewing, or small business, there's where the culture and trend will start from and it will take off from there.
Catch our live interview with Catherine Ganapathy in Episode 14 of Coffee On on YouTube. For more, follow PPP Coffee on Instagram.
When Gonzalo Hernandez was a young child, he was caught on multiple occasion for stealing a sip of coffee from the adults' table. In an attempt to discourage him from doing so, his mother tried putting salt in the coffee cups, but this did not impede Gonzalo from his attempts!
This was what stirred Gonzalo’s curiosity in coffee and how in 2003, he founded Coffea Diversa, the world’s largest private collection of rare coffee botanical variants.
In this interview series we speak with Gonzalo Hernandez on how this curiosity eventually led him to begin this life-long relationship with specialty coffee.
Q: With a large portfolio like yours, how do you determine what’s good and what’s not good?
Quality is relative. When we started producing, we sent different samples to companies. What was strange was the difference in preferences. Taste is personal and what I look for is the same feeling when we taste an interesting coffee for the first time, again.
Q: The coffee varieties that you planted are often not planted commercially, why?
Coffee production typically focuses on productivity and yield. They look for a plant that can produce a large amount of coffee. To put it simply: a strong plant that is not affected badly by pests or diseases.
The criteria for coffee trees that farmers look for is a high yielder. Typically, the most commonly planted is the Bourbon and Typica varietal. Then someone found a natural mutation in Brazil in a Bourbon varietal coffee plantation. He embraces the Caturra because of the yield.
All this explanation is to let you know that farmers traditionally have focused on yield, while most coffee plants that I choose to plant are of poor yield, and small quantities. These varietals have never been "interesting" for coffee farmers (because of their poor yield). The Agricultural Coffee Research Centre has a range of collections on a much larger scale, but it was never released because they knew no one would embrace it.
Q: How did you decide to embrace the rare, poor yields, small quantities coffee plants?
Our most important factor is the taste profile. Yield is secondary. I want to share a different taste profile to the coffee lovers than what we already have. Our approach is to always look for something different. With diversity, there will always be something for everyone.
Q: What are some of the challenges running a private collection coffee garden compared to a commercial coffee farm production?
Details. Typically, a farm does everything as a whole lot. In our case, we have to do everything separately. We have to be very careful and organised, so that it remains pure.
One of the biggest challenges we have to face is to be organised. But it gets even more complicated as the botanical variant is only one variable. Once we have the coffee cherries, we process it in three different methods. Sometimes, one botanical variant can be processed in five different ways, e.g. natural, semi-washed, washed etc, but we just do it. The coffee roasters that we work with embraces diversity too. They enjoy exploring and being out of their comfort zones.
Q: How do you curate which rare and exotic coffee to grow?
To me, it’s like all these botanica variants are like my daughters, I look at them as persons. They have different personalities, different tastes, and I love them all. You can plant 3,000 trees and there's no cookie cutter answers. Everything is different. But I do look out for interesting coffee plants to grow, and with that being said, 3 years ago we started producing Specialty Liberica.
Catch our live interview with Gonzalo in Episode 13 of Coffee On on YouTube. For more, follow PPP Coffee on Instagram.
According to popular legend, Kaldi was a legendary Ethiopian goatherd who discovered the coffee plant around 850 AD. He noticed his goats were nibbling on the red fruits of a certain bush, becoming more energetic. He tasted the fruits himself, and quickly brought the berries to an Islamic monk in a nearby Sufi monastery. However, the monk disapproved, throwing them into a fire. An enticing aroma ensued, invoking them to rake up the embers and dissolving them in hot water, producing the world’s first cup of coffee.
Kaldi’s name has since inspired countless coffee shops and roasters around the world.
Baba Budan was a 16th century Sufi saint, revered by both Muslims and Hindus. He is said to have introduced coffee to India, by bringing seven raw beans from the port of Mocha, Yemen, hiding the seeds in his beard. In those days, coffee was only exported as roasted, so no one could grow their own outside of Yemen. He planted the seeds on the slopes of Chandragiri Hills, which was later named after him as Baba Budan Hills (Baba Budangiri), on which his tomb sits.
Coffee has been around since the 9th century, when Islamic shepherds first discovered that the beans had an invigorating effect on their sheep, and soon spread around the Muslim world. When the drink was introduced to Christian Europe, it was faced with suspicion, considering the Christians had been at war with Muslims for centuries.
Things changed when coffee reached the Vatican, where most called for the pope to ban the beverage. Pope Clement VIII tried the drink for himself, and was delighted. He declared, “This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.” And the rest is history.
Nicolaes Witsen was a Dutch statesman, who was the mayor of Amsterdam from 1682 to 1706. In 1693, he became the administrator of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), urging the Dutch governor of Batavia (now Jakarta) to obtain coffee plants at the port of Mocha in Yemen, and establishing plantations in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
This became a success, with the company supplying “Java coffee” to Europe by 1719. This was one of the first places outside of Arabia and Ethiopia, where coffee was cultivated in large volumes. Today, Indonesia remains one of the largest producers of coffee in the world, coming in at the fourth largest in 2014, and producing over 600 000 metric tons yearly.
5. Captain Gabriel-Mathieu Francois D'ceus de Clieu
This story traces back to the 1700s, when King Louis XIV of France received some coffee plants, which were kept in the royal garden. Sir Gabriel de Clieu, a French naval officer and later, governor of Guadaloupe Island in the Carribean, discovered the coffee plant on one of his visits to France. He managed to get hold of some seedlings and transported them back to the Carribean on a long and arduous journey.
This is where the very first coffee plants in the Americas originated. It turned out that the climate was more than suitable for growing coffee, and the crop quickly spread from there. This gave rise to Guadeloupe Typica, the original strains of the Typica varietal, that developed into many of the varietals commonly grown today.
The year was 1727, when Brazil was a colony of Portugal. This was a time when coffee plants were prized assets, and each country regarded their coffee trees as a close-guarded national treasures. Hoping to grow coffee in Brazil, the Portuguese sent Lieutenant Colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta to the French Guiana, under the pretext of settling some border disputes. There, Palheta set about working his charm on the wife of the colonial governor, who presented him with a bouquet of flowers that secretly contained some coffee seedlings.
Back home in Brazil, Palheta began cultivating coffee, and production soon spread across the country, turning Brazil into one of the world’s largest coffee producers today. This is also the name that served as inspiration for our original name, Papa Palheta.
“What would life be without coffee?” King Louis XV of France is said to have asked. “But, then, what is life even with coffee?” King Louis XV was an avid coffee drinker, to the point where he grew his own coffee in the greenhouses on the Versailles Palace grounds, even going on to picking, roasting and grinding them himself. He enjoyed serving his own coffee to guests of the Palace.
Ludwig van Beethoven, acclaimed German composer and pianist, remains one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. He was also remarkably fastidious about one thing – his coffee. He always prepared his own coffee, meticulously counting exactly 60 beans and grinding them. He brewed with what was described as a glass contraption. His biographer and friend Anton Schindler once remarked, “coffee seems to have been the one indispensable item in his diet.”
What other coffee legends do you know of that are not on this list? Share with us in the comments below!
Located in West Java, Frinsa Estate was started by Wildan Mustofa and his wife, Atieq, in 2010. Since the first year of production, Wildan's focus has always been on quality. While the majority of Indonesian producers were doing wet-hulled processing, Wildan focused on fully washed processing and careful drying.
Fikri, Wildan and Atieq's son, recently came aboard the business after graduating from university, actively involving himself in the coffee processing. The family operation runs the 110 hectares farm, as well as a wet mill, greenhouse, warehouse and dry mill. This allows them full control over their product, from harvest to grading, sorting and shipping.
In 2015, Frinsa Estate began experimenting with different processing methods, with support from Nordic Approach, a green sourcing company focused on high-quality coffee. Aiming to develop processing techniques that can be replicated consistently over time, without exorbitant prices, they succeeded in creating lots that rather unique and different from typical Indonesian coffees.
This coffee is a saccharic honey lot, fermented with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast that has had an instrumental role in winemaking, baking and brewing since ancient times. It starts off with cherries being harvested, floated and sorted for any undesired defects. Then, the coffee is placed in plastic bags, with lactic bacteria and the Saccharomyces culture. The bags are sealed and allowed to ferment in this anaerobic environment for three days. During this fermentation phase, the bags are turned for even fermentation.
The coffees are then pulped and dried on raised beds as honey processing, with the mucilage attached. Depending on rainfall, drying may take 14 to 20 days. Extra precautions like close monitoring are taken during the drying phase to ensure optimum results, This unique processing method creates a taste profile with high sweetness, syrupy texture, and a complex cup.
Bees have long been a crucial part of the ecosystem, and this is no exception on Danny Perez's coffee farms, one of our long-term coffee partners in Guatemala.
Under the Family Bonds group are award-winning coffee farms such as Finca Isnul and San Antonio Chaguite, amongst others. Rearing bees was a hobby of Danny's late grandfather, with 140 beehives kept in Finca Isnul until today.
Each coffee harvest, the beehives are cleared out and the bees begin collecting from the neighbouring coffee blossoms. Some say the quality of the honey can tell how good that year’s coffee harvest was, although coffee quality is also dependent on many other variables that follow.
This is the first time it has been exported and sold outside of Guatemala, and we’re delighted to present two vintages of honey, from 2019 and 2020.
Click here to get this rare release of coffee blossom honey! This makes a great gift for anyone who loves coffee or honey, or both!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
My honey appears different from typical honey, is this normal?
This is raw, minimally-processed honey, which means you may find traces of pollen. A small amount of foam is also normal, caused by air bubbles trapped during bottling.
You may also find the texture different from typical honey, as raw honey will crystallize at lower temperatures. This is a good indicator of raw honey. Crystallized honey is still good to consume - in fact, we enjoy the thicker honey spread on a piece of toast. Simply give the jar a good stir before enjoying! If you prefer a smoother consistency, simply let the jar sit in some warm water to let it slowly liquefy.
Does the honey contain caffeine?
The honey as well as nectar from the flowers does contain some caffeine at low concentrations, although not high enough to taste. Recent studies have shown that the caffeine in the nectar helps the honey bees to return to the same flowers periodically, until they collect all the nectar.
Does the coffee blossom honey tastes different?
The honey from coffee blossoms tends to be more fruity, due to the different flower aromatics. This harvest from 2020 has some brighter, citric notes, while the 2019 vintage adds some deeper, brown sugar aromatics.
Available in a limited release gift set. Don’t wait, click here to get your hands on a set!
Singapore, 11 February 2020 -- PPP Coffee (“the company”) has been closely monitoring the news and official updates issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (“2019-nCoV”) infection. Following the DORSCON orange alert issued by MOH on 7 February 2020, we will be stepping up our precautionary measures and implementing the following initiatives across our operations in Singapore.
All full-time and part-time employees across the company will be required to fill up a Travel Declaration Form declaring their travel history and future plans to all countries. As of 7 February 2020, none of our employees has travelled to China in the last 14 days, or has any immediate contact with any persons on Home Quarantine Order (HQO).
Daily Temperature Checking
Employees will be required to record their temperature twice daily – in the morning when they report to work, and in the afternoon no later than 2pm. Employees who are unwell, or displaying flu-like symptoms with temperature exceeding 37.5°C, will be sent home and be required to seek immediate medical attention.
All large-scale events will be temporarily suspended until further notice. This includes the regular BREW by Darker Than Wax, and The Analog Assembly to be held at Chye Seng Huat Hardware.
All workshops will continue to run as per usual at the respective venues. However, the company will be taking additional precautionary measures such mandatory travel declarations and temperature checks to ensure the wellbeing of other employees and students. Participants who have registered for the workshops will be offered a full refund if they choose to cancel and/or withdraw from the scheduled workshop three (3) working days in advance.
All cafes and retail outlets by PPP Coffee in Singapore will continue to operate as per usual. Employees are reminded daily to maintain and observe high standards of sanitation and personal hygiene. In addition, we have introduced steps to ensure that all common areas are sanitised every 3 hours fromopening till closing. Tables, chairs and serving trays will also be wiped and sanitised after every use.
To manage the lunch hour crowd at the respective venues, we will also be looking to work more closely with food delivery partners. In addition, we will be offering free islandwide delivery with minimum order of S$10 made through our online store from 13 February 2020 to 31 March 2020. Terms and Conditions apply.
Business Continuity Plan
PPP Coffee has developed a business continuity plan for all critical functions and services to ensure that we can continue to maintain our operations and service our clients. A flexible work-from-home, split-shift and split-site arrangement will be in place for our backend and frontline staff respectively.
PPP Coffee will continue to monitor the situation and heed the official advisories recommended by MOH and other government agencies.