Slurrp Exclusive: Bharat Singhal On Running An Artisanal Coffee Brand

If you’ve been up to date with Delhi’s coffee landscape for the last few years, it’s likely that you’ve come across a few independent brands that produce artisanal coffee. One of these brands is Bili Hu, founded by 31-year-old Bharat Singhal, a former design professional who trained at MIT Institute of Design in Pune. Bili Hu, which is a white flower symbolising the coffee plant flower in Kannada, was launched to bring people coffees that had otherwise been reserved only for export. We chat with founder Bharat Singhal to find out more about Bili Hu and other burgeoning coffee brands in India. 

What do you have to say about other burgeoning independent coffee brands in India? 

The existing market is really small but the potential is huge, hence more brands would only help us Indians become familiar with coffees and start judging it, pretty much like how it is for other beverages like teas. We especially like a chai made by an xyz person over the other, and a similar culture has to start with coffees. Getting access to good coffee, leave alone specialty coffee, in every neighbourhood is still a challenge and other brands with their swanky outlets, is only helping build up the market.

What sets Bili Hu apart from these brands?

While we are older than most new brands, we are stepping into the market and saying this is how you could brew coffee at your end and have a cafe-like experience at home. There are also educational workshops and content we share that help customers understand coffee on a deeper level. The taste and flavour of single estate coffees from our portfolio varies from nutty and chocolaty to fruity and floral. Most blends are however balanced and relatable to most customers. We focus on medium roasts and not dark roasts so that the nuances are not lost in the roasting process.

What places in Delhi serve Bili Hu coffee?

Hotels like Taj, Oberoi, Andaz & Pullman have coffee programmes set by us. There are also restaurants like Indian accent, Olive and Quorum that serve blends we’ve created especially for them. Then there are stores like Nature’s Soul that brew our coffee and also sell packs for customers to brew at home.  

Is a full-fledged Bili Hu cafe on the cards? 

Not in the near future. The point is to help other restaurants and cafés to amp up their coffee experience.

Do you think India has embraced artisanal coffee or is there still a love for bigger brands?

No, the customers haven’t embraced it yet. There is however acceptance to artisanal products in general but it’s going to take time for people to have only artisanal brands in their pantry. Trust being the major influencing factor, we’re all working towards that in our own ways. The love for larger brands is still there mostly because they have been offering something consistently for many years and it’s not something that any artisanal brand would focus on. Consistency and artisanal are almost two opposite sides of the spectrum and while going gourmet, we’re telling the customer that inconsistencies are to be embraced for any agricultural produce—be it veggies, breads, cheese or coffee.