While the festival may have ended, the interesting range of Flavours of Latte at Mumbai’s Cafe Noir linger long enough to demand an encore.
What is it about prefixing any term with artisanal that automatically makes it stand out? It’s what Cafe Noir in Mumbai has managed to do for the humble latte.
For a country that wears the lust for chai proudly on its sleeve, coffee culture has managed to carve a significant niche over the past few years.
When it comes to lattes, specifically, the aesthetically pleasing art and social media photographs have accelerated the popularity of this beverage. Iced or hot, the Italian originated breakfast coffee drink is essentially made with one or two shots of espresso and steamed milk.
As part of the Flavours of Latte promotion at Café Noir, the team has curated over ten artisanal lattes for coffee lovers and experimentative gourmands alike. The festival idea stemmed from the desire to give a distinct coffee identity to the French cafe. Catering to all times and moods of the day, the flavoured latte menu is demarcated into Winter mornings, Breezy afternoons and Late-Night sections.
“The idea of bringing in Flavours of Latte was that we could attract different segments of people at different times of the day. We have a set of regular clientele who come and visit us for morning breakfast, lunch and so on. So we wanted coffee to be a major source of attraction at Cafe Noir,” says Bensan Varghese, Corporate Beverage Manager, VRO Hospitality.
For the morning go-getters, the menu offers Vanilla, Turmeric and Cinnamon Lattes. For breezy afternoons, opt for the Peanut Butter or Hazelnut flavours. The Late-Night section calls for winding down with a version of a nightcap, featuring robust flavours like Truffle, Mocha, Amaretto, Baileys or Hennessy Latte.
He adds, “We’ve inculcated a lot of flavours across the 10-11 different types of lattes we’ve curated. Our signature being the Turmeric latte for breakfast, Peanut Butter for lunch and Cognac for dinner.”
What sets this experiment with lattes apart is the adamant refusal to use syrups. While conceptualising the range with Cafe Noir barista Ganesh over three days, they focused on sourcing only the best ingredients to use. It’s at the nexus of the barista’s skills with flavours like turmeric, cinnamon and Bensan’s experience behind the bar that these delightful lattes lie.
“We had different flavour combinations in mind initially, but then decided to stick to the basics. So we’ve used one ingredient at a time which gives it that identity. We got turmeric from Kerala, which is very different from the kind you would find in local groceries. We’ve not used vanilla syrup, instead opting for vanilla pods that are properly infused into the coffee,” he further clarifies.
And precision is important here, especially when you’ve got an unusual Truffle Latte on the menu. Even as the ingredient gains popularity, the highly priced segment under which it falls makes it a relatively niche flavour profile. Which is where the methods used for preparation come into play to deliver a quality final product.
Bensan says, “When it comes to the Truffle Latte, we’ve used proper truffle slivers that go in the coffee before the hot water is poured in so the natural essence remains. There’s also a little bit of truffle oil that goes in at the end, which gives you that hard-hitting truffle aroma.”
It’s a truly unique and peculiar scent, but somehow blends in exceptionally smoothly with the coffee and renders an almost umami nature to the latte.
Through independent artisanal coffee roasters, social media exposure to different intricate coffee styles, or just the beauty of latte art, coffee culture continues to evolve in India. Even so, the degree of experimentation remains what some would consider woefully inadequate, rarely venturing beyond the usual filter or floral coffee offerings.
Which makes Flavours of Latte by Cafe Noir all the more significant. The festival fills the gap for those looking for premium quality coffee, and also wishing to experiment with exotic and flavourful elements. If and when the festival does come back, be sure not to miss it!