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Imagine the fun when sipping coffee becomes your job!

Not everybody gets a job as lucky as Arushi Aggarwal. If you wonder what her job is, then all she has to do is keep gulping down coffee and rate how it’s. In industry parlance, it’s called coffee tasting. It was sheer happenstance that she became a coffee connoisseur after she studied nanotechnology and later an MBA.

A random newspaper clipping changed her career and life forever. Now, Arushi is heading quality operations at a coffee start-up in New Delhi. Even the most mundane things can be enjoyable if you are passionate about it.

Here’s Arushi’s story. Read, over a cup of coffee. Enjoy.

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In the age of engineers and doctors, I chose to become a coffee connoisseur. Before starting my journey, let’s spill the beans over my school days in Delhi. My school was Hindi medium till 5th standard and it took me a few years to manage English medium after my 5th grade and realized I was in 9th grade already. I chose medical as a stream in 11th, realized in 2 months, bio is not my thing. Soon, I switched to computer science aka non-medical stream and started IIT coaching, without knowing the full form of IIT, though working hard for it.

I used to stay with my grandmother since my college years. As computer science stream was too hyped, I thought of starting my bachelors in an area, which can be the future of Nation, so I chose Nanotechnology to study, an emerging field completed B.Tech in Nanotechnology with a distinction in my dissertation from a highly reputed govt organization in Chandigarh.

I was applying for my MS in nano-sensors abroad, but destiny wanted something else. I couldn’t go abroad due to some family reasons, and joined MBA in a centralized university in Delhi; this is how plan B worked for me.

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I went to college for a month and being a science student, realized accounts were just not my thing. One day, I visited my parents and they were shocked after seeing my face full of pressure. They discussed with me how studies are going on, and we all eventually realized that everything will fall into place, once I’ll get used to it.

My father was randomly turning the pages of a newspaper the same day, and he saw the advertisement of the applications for PGDM in Coffee Quality Management recognized through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. My father told me to fill the form as I wanted both of science and management, neither wanted to surround myself in chemicals all the time nor sitting on the laptop after MBA. This was not me.

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He called me again the next day, to check whether I filled up the form, though I didn’t know really what sensory is all about, I just filled my form without any interest ( I knew somewhere in my heart that my father has already paid the full yearly fees, which is nonrefundable so it’s better to complete my post-grad).

He started sending me the videos on my email, regarding coffee and the roasting profiles to develop my interest. It was August 30, 2016, when I sat in flight for the first time with my father and landed to the heaven of coffee – Coffee Board of India, Bangalore.

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Just for your knowledge, I have never tasted tea in my life ( I drink now sometimes when served in Satsangs, as a Prasad or a blessing of God) and coffee accidentally from 6th grade.

I gave the sensory evaluation exam, blindly matching the aromas and flavors of fruits, spices, etc. The board decided to not announce the results the very moment. We were at the airport waiting for the flight departing back to Delhi, my father asked me to check the mail randomly. And that was it. I got selected in a 12 student’s batch for the course. I went back, gave my withdrawal from my college, without any further discussions with the family or anyone and from Bangalore my new journey started.

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From being in coffee plantations in Central Coffee Research Institute, Chikmaglur, Karnataka to tasting every type of coffee in Bangalore, we learned all types of cupping protocols. Tasting 50-100 cups a day, was a never tiring job and I made up my mind, that this is something which I can do all my life. I completed the course, joined a company in Bangalore. I feel every day is a new journey. If you feel that you have to find a motivation to start a day, then I can say this confidently that this is not what you want. I am a recognized lead auditor in quality management as well, not for someone else, but for me and my knowledge and understanding.

Now, heading a coffee start-up in Delhi, I analyze all the quality aspects, from the procurement of green coffee till the roasted coffee bean reaches the customer’s cup.

I am currently working for my future targets and goals maintaining a healthy family life balance. In the end, I would like to say, that it’s completely okay and acceptable to experiment with your life. I chose to opt for my passion as my career which builds me, the real me.

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I have again started my MBA, but this time distance learning (because I feel it can add up knowledge to my experience, now, if I would have done it earlier, it would be just a national degree)

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Tell us about the PGDM course in Coffee Quality Management. How can an aspirant apply for the course and what are the criteria per se?

It is an intensive course, which includes botany, agriculture, etc etc from coffee seed to cup. It is a 12 student’s batch, motive behind the small batch, is to make them excel in sensory. To apply, you need to be a graduate from a science stream (Agriculture, Food Tech are preferred). Board takes a sensory evaluation exam, which includes, identifying different flavors, by aromas and tasting followed by an interview.

You must have traveled all over the country, especially Karnataka, as part of the course. Any interesting experience to share? Like Central Coffee Research Institute, Chikmagalur.

I travelled to Nilgiris, Calicut, Coorg, Wayanad, Bababudangiris, Chikmaglur etc to know more about the agriculture of coffees. How different they are in terms of size, color & taste depending on the different elevated growing areas.

How are the lives of coffee workers and or even the plantation owners? How is the journey of coffee from the plantation to your cuppa if you can sum up from your experience.

There are big growers and the small ones. Growers who have small estates, are unable to earn a reliable living from the coffee they produce because of the chain it follows. Prices are decided on many factors like – uniqueness, harvest year, density of a bean, elevation, yield, specialty processes coffees – like honey, fermented etc . When I went to the plantations, the institute taught us about different irrigation processes, how to calculate the yield of the crop, how to check the plant nutrient deficiency and the main thing, the difference between the Arabica and the Robusta coffee plant :D. When we came back to Bangalore from plantations, we learnt to differentiate between Arabica and robusta by taste, grades, physical analysis, sorting, different types of instant coffees, chicory coffees, export documentation, coffee market, etc.

These days when you smell a fresh cup of coffee, what is the first thought that comes to your mind - which part of the world is this coffee from OR the excitement of having chosen such an exciting career option OR something else?

As a quality person, first thing which comes into my mind is – is there any defect in the coffee? Is it a blend ? How is the acidity, body, flavor, mouthfeel and aftertaste of the coffee.

What are the career options for a student who has done this course?

You can be a coffee roaster, coffee taster, can try in quality audits, quality manager, exporter, barista/coffee brewer or can be an entrepreneur , coffee supply chain, trader , can join any organic certification body, or can start your own specialty coffee café to make people realize that there is a market above instant coffees as well. It all depends on one’s interest it develops while being in the market.

What does your start-up do?

I am currently looking over quality part, as in procurement, blend development, roasting etc in a coffee startup, based out of Delhi. We specialize in bespoke coffee roasting and artisan’s coffee. We cup every bean we procure and make sure that the best one reaches every individual. We create perfect blends for personal as well as commercial use because everybody deserves the best of coffee.

Finally, what is your take on tea? ;-)

As I mentioned earlier, I never tasted tea in my lifetime. Had to taste few months back because it was served with Langar Prasad/blessing of god.

Tell us about those habits of yours
which you are proud of?

  • Love for coffee
  • My sensory specially nose and tongue
  • Adjusting with the vast cultural difference which I faced.

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