What began in late 2013 as an attempt to make some truly remarkable coffee from Tej’s farm in Coorg more accessible to friends and family across cities soon grew into one of India’s leading online coffee brands in just a few years! The intentions were humble - a true coffee drinker didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to home-brewing with quality coffee beans. The stuff found on supermarket shelves was roasted anywhere between a month to a whopping 6 months ago. The Flying Squirrel was here to solve this problem. We started at the estate level, working with India’s (and possibly one among the world’s) finest coffee consultant. We looked at how we could use our natural soil, climate and water conditions to work better for us, to create better coffee beans. We experimented with different cultivars, varying growing conditions, inter-cropping, different methods of processing, drying, storing and roasting - and various permutations and combinations of the same, followed by copious amounts of cupping. We finally settled on 6 perfectly diverse, beautiful coffees. And then, our online store www.flyingsquirrel.in saw the light of day.
AFTER A BRIEF PERIOD OF HIGHLY INFORMAL OPERATIONS, THE OVERWHELMING RESPONSE FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY PROMPTED US TO LOOK MORE SERIOUSLY AT CREATING A BRAND AND A PRODUCT THAT WOULD TRULY BE UNMATCHABLE OVER TIME.
At The Flying Squirrel we grow most of our offering on our own estates in Coorg which for those of you who don’t know is a beautiful, picturesque district in Karnataka, South India. The main estate is called Nellikad estate which is over a hundred years old and has been with the Ajjikuttira family for the last three generations. Tej Thammaiah, the third generation farmer in the family is at the helm of everything that happens on this gorgeously lush 150 acre farm which also produces pepper, vanilla, citrus fruit of different kinds, avocados, ginger and honey.
Every year in the months of December, January and February, picking of coffee on the estate takes place. The farm is buzzing with activity. Women in brightly coloured sarees are all over the farm hand-picking equally brightly coloured coffee cherries, each one ripened to exacting perfection. All of these picked cherries are then collected as per the kind of bean (Arabica or Robusta) and cultivar, and then processed in different artisan ways. A few days later, drying begins and the huge brick yards are covered in tiny mountains of washed, semi-pulped or un-pulped cherries with a beautiful grassy fragrance permeating through the air.
Weeks later the coffee is then husked (where necessary) and bagged to be stored in our well ventilated storage halls, placed away from heat or moisture. Every week, a few bags of these green beans make their way to Bangalore where they are stored at The Flying Squirrel roastery and roasted 3-5 times a week depending our customer requirements.
Every step of the bean’s journey until it reaches the Flying Squirrel Roastery in Bangalore is watchfully monitored by Tej. The amount of water each coffee plant is getting. The soil conditions. The application of natural pesticides as well as commercial ones. Pruning, grafting, transplanting, cross-cropping. Picking at exactly the right time and of cherries of a perfectly right colour. Keenly monitoring pulping, fermentation, soaking of cherries, drying and husking. Packing and storage – each of these little elements play a hugely import role in the way the cup eventually tastes. And it’s only a farmer with immense experience and a keen eye who is able to tread that fine line between impeccable quality and rising production. Even in those cases where we require certain higher or lower altitude beans or beans of different cultivars, we source these from partner estates, and Tej works together with some of these farmers in getting the kind of output and quality that makes The Flying Squirrel cut.