Principles

1. Aim to provide fair prices for growers, by reaching 40-50% of the consumer price to the producer. We do this by minimising activities unrelated to the coffee.

2. Would you trust a source that is paid to say something? We don’t, so we won’t pay to influence or advertise. Visual imagery will be used to communicate the truth, not to persuade to buy. Our product, service and values make the brand, not an ad agency.

3. We will not mass produce. There will be no assembly line. Every person in the organisation will be encouraged to learn and perform all functions, so that someday they can start out on their own if they wish. It’s dehumanising to make any human repeat the same operation over and over in the name of specialisation, and we will never do that. When everyone does every job, it melts away the pride and shame associated with division of labour in caste society.

4. Build trust between the Consumer and the Producer, where each cares for the well-being of the other. A producer should produce as they would for their own family, and a Consumer should be mindful of the life afforded by the price they pay, and understand farm life. Honesty in production and consumption is the primary goal, and we accept whatever profits that come out of it. Maximising shareholder value is not our objective.

5. Minimise automation and increase mutual inter-dependence with employees. No matter how good a coffee tastes, we will not automate and repeat roast profiles on the roasting machine. We repeat it manually if we want to. Work is not a chore to be completed, instead its part of a series of joyous movements that make up life.

6. There will be no Standard Operating Procedure, except for machines. Employees will not follow preordained steps and processes in their daily work. They will be forced to use their intelligence to solve problems at work, even if to an outsider it seems like they are reinventing the wheel.

7. In the people we work with – growers, employees, and consumers – we value awareness, integrity and the ability to cooperate.

8. We are a small business, not a start-up. We pursue efficiency of resource use, not economies of scale. We only accept equity from employees, and there will be no debt, and no reporting or accounting for others.

 Vui Coffee

Vui means ‘happy’ in Vietnamese, and our work should bring happiness to growers, employees and consumers. All three are equal; there is no King.

We work mainly with the Tat Tvam Asi Organica farm in Chikmagalur, Karnataka, run by Vishal and Aditi. I focus on just one estate, and showcase coffees from the single source done in different ways – at the farm and the roaster. In a sense, it’s a ceteris paribus look at the role of the grower and roaster. The coffee itself is exceptional.

In our first two years, we roasted at our friend Divya’s roastery. She runs Beachville Coffee Roasters (www.beachvillecoffee.com) out of Chennai and is a master roaster and taster. She taught me how to roast, and afforded a few hundred hours of independent roasting experience (and tonnes of confidence). Much gratitude is owed. She’s starting a café in Chennai in October 2020.

In August 2020 we started out on our own in Mysore, with a Probat roaster in a small shed. The farm’s processes have steadily improved over the years, and this year’s coffee is fabulous. Our focus on quality is habituated to the point of involuntary.

ABOUT ME

Growing up in Chennai, life revolved around basketball and the urban outdoors. P.S. Senior School was tough, and often felt like a cage, yet the place set the academic bar so high that everything that followed felt easier. 

When I started four years of mechanical engineering at Hindustan College in Chennai, time was plentiful, and academic pressure non-existent, and I began exploring India. Soon I was catching a train out at any opportunity and grew comfortable in any situation in return for experiencing something new. 

After a brief and unsuccessful stint as an engineer, I went to IIM Indore for an MBA. There I was trained in the methods of modern managementwhich was later put to use for a global commodity giant named Olam. 

Working in the coffee industry in Vietnam, the towns of Pleiku and Dalat in the Central Highlands were home for seven years. There I learned languagesdiversified the diet, and had time and space to explore. At work, I was managing the trade of green coffee beans – bought from agents, graded and sold to coffee roasters across the world. I could observe how the value was shared from the farm to the consumerLiving in small towns in Vietnam also gave me fresh eyes to observe social life, and to learn new ways of thinking. 

In 2015 I moved back to India, looking to start a small farm. During the search for land, I met Vishal of Tat Tvam Asi Organica, and found alignment in values: natural farming, focus on quality, and cooperation. Thus Vui Coffee began in July 2018, as an experiment in social and economic relations and good coffee. 

Thanks to a few people

Wendrick in Del Rio, Tennessee. Their ideas on enterprise, time, labour, money, friendship, love and social relations, have been a great positive influence in my life. 

Paul Olivier in DalatA question on what to do with the left-over pulp from my coffee factory led me to Paul (http://epwt.vn/en/about/who introduced me to waste Transformation, which led to natural farming. 

Jasvinder Singh Sethi a.k.a Jassi in Saigon – runs Nam Agro https://www.namagro.com/. His tenacity and positive energy are contagious, and when we met in the summer of 2018, he pushed me to start Vui Coffee. 

Gopi, NagarajanPadmini, Lakshmi and others at Navadarshanam. They gave me an opportunity to learn, and instilled confidence in the path chosen. Lakshmi was my first teacher in organic farming. 

A book named ‘Labour and Monopoly Capital, by Harry Braverman. This book took many years to internalise, and became the guiding light regarding how work should be organised.