“Mornings are for coffee and contemplation” – Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
In the past few years, the demand for specialty coffee, the rise of cafe culture, and the integration of specialty coffee in mainstream dining has enabled laypersons like us to appreciate a good cup of coffee. Even in India, which is a primarily tea-drinking country, a significant part of the population has started demanding good coffee. But setting up a coffee business in a country like India takes a lot of resources. Luckily, there are people like Binny Varghese, or ‘Barista on Bike’ as he is popularly known, who are enabling people all across the country by helping them set up their coffee ventures.
Barista on Bike:
Just like his name, Binny travels across the country, preferably on his bike! While he is known as one of the key facilitators in the coffee scene in India, he also started a coffee training school in Baroda, Gujarat, and in 2018, undertook a 100-day solo bike trip across India and Nepal, in his journey to understand the finer nuances of coffee. The sole rule of this journey, in Binny’s words, was to ‘never take a U-turn.
“I started from Baroda, Gujarat, went to Rajasthan, Punjab, all the way up till Chitkul. Chitkul is the last inhabited village on the Indo-Tibet border! Then I came back to Delhi, drove to UP. I drove till Gorakhpur and then finally entered Nepal. Since I was going to Nepal via road, I had to obtain a license where I had to pay for myself and my bike for every single day that I was in Nepal for. If I overstayed beyond my limit, I would be fined heavily! But I still wanted to visit Nepal because the cafe culture there is pretty vibrant- the city of Kathmandu itself as close to 700 cafes I re-entered India through Bihar, went to Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, West Bengal before going to Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh. I then went to Tamilnadu, touched Kanyakumari, traveled through Kerala, Karnataka, and Maharashtra before coming back to Baroda.”
During his entire trip, Binny stuck to a tight budget of INR 1000-1500 per day. This included his fuel cost, accommodation, food, and everything else. He visited 15+ states, in addition to his time spent in Nepal. In total, he clocked over 20000 kilometers on the road.
Lessons From The Road:
When asked about what he learned during the trip, apart from his tryst with coffee, Binny says, “People have so many misconceptions and fears about traveling. Ironically these are the people who have traveled very little! I have experienced that most people are genuinely nice, everywhere. Mishaps are possible anywhere in the world, but if you have an open mind and are willing to look beyond first impressions, there’s abundant beauty in every part of India. Travelling has the power of breaking biases that you might have formed over years- and I feel that is truly incredible.”
He adds, “States like Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhatisgarh are extremely underrated. Even with these states, there exists a certain bias in the minds of people. They feel like there’s nothing to do in these states. But these states have so much to offer in terms of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and food!
What Does The Future Hold?
This Barista is surely having fun with his bike right now, but what does the future hold for him? Will ‘Barista on Bike’ remain Barista on Bike even after 10 years? “I hope so”, says Binny, “I would want to be able to ride my bike as much as possible. I wouldn’t want to be confined to a plane or a car. Travelling, meeting coffee enthusiasts and helping build a strong coffee culture, these are things I would want to be doing, 10 years later.
Within 20000 kilometers of travel under his belt, this Barista surely has a lot of stories to tell. Since he keeps on traveling, you might just be lucky and find him the next time you step out for coffee! You can also check out his podcast in the meanwhile by clicking here . You can also follow his adventures on Instagram at @baristaonbike.
“Coffee is a language in itself”. -Jackie Chan