“None of us had any background or professional ‘coffee training’; we were just good at drinking coffee.” That’s Ajai Thandi, one of the founding trio at the helm of Sleepy Owl, a Delhi-based service that’s delivering cold brew coffee to the capital’s bean buffs. There’s a playful camaraderie between the co-founders, Thandi, Ashwajeet Singh and Arman Sood, and they oscillate between taking digs at each other and propping the other up. “We were in jobs (or were studying subjects) that required us to drink heaps of coffee”, adds Thandi nodding towards childhood bud Singh, the common link in this three-way friendship and partnership. “Ajai was an investment banker, and Arman and I studied five (long) years of law together, which in itself warranted a hefty dose of coffee on any given day”, Singh explains. While most college students make do with instant coffee, Sood and Singh brewed their own in Singh’s French press. “The problem arose when we went on to our respective jobs, and found that good coffee just wasn’t available”, says Sood.
If you haven’t already pitted Sleepy Owl’s refreshing cold brew coffee against this summer’s soaring temperatures, you’re probably on the losing side of a very heated battle. They sell one cold brew that they’ve perfected, with “caramelly, chocolatey notes”, a flavour profile that’s intended for the everyday coffee drinker and that, when poured over a bed of ice, is ideal to combat the heat. “Our end product is a result of a lot of small things, and all of it was hands on, from experimenting with different flavours and processes, to visiting farmers in Karnataka, and packaging our own coffee”, Sood told us. This perfectly balanced brew is the outcome of eight months of trial and error, and every day spent experimenting was an unmistakable clarion call to their first sale in June 2016. “During research and development we learnt that coffee farmers don’t earn a substantial return from their produce owing to middlemen,” Thandi pitches in, “so we decided to go directly to the source, not only interacting with estate owners but also the people who pick our coffee, clean it, and process it.” Sleepy Owl’s cold brew comes packaged in a brown carton with a handy dispenser, perfectly sized to figure into the bottle compartment in your refrigerator. The name originates from an achingly familiar sensation, and evolved from a bunch of stipulations the team set for themselves, “I was always certain that I wanted some sort of bird or animal to figure in the name, and eventually the owl made most sense”, quips Ashwajeet. Sood interjects, “We wanted something to represent the brand besides the name, so we knew we wanted a mark or figure that customers can instantly identify the brand with.” Sleepy Owl’s all natural brew (minus any artificial bits or nasties) stays fresh for a whole month when refrigerated and can be enjoyed both cold and hot. “The neat thing about cold brew coffee is that it lends itself beautifully to cocktails”, Sood said enthusiastically before placing martini glasses on the table, and assuming the role of our bartender. You’ll see the cartons tightly stacked together at Sleepy Owl’s compact outpost in Shahpur Jat, right above Wishing Chair, which serves as both their workplace and a little sun-soaked cafe for customers to stop in at to sample a cup. “We’re a chatty bunch, and we happily share our story, so many people do end up buying our product after they’ve had a chance to interact with us here”, Sood’s admits. The team handles customer service with the utmost care, dispatching cartons within 24 hours of receiving an online order, sending out personalised emails after every sale, and gathering feedback so they can better their customer experience. While Shahpur Jat is home to their office, cafe, and brewing lab (which is out of bounds), you’ll find they’ve made it on the menu of several restaurants like Olive, and on shelves at retail outlets like Le Marche. “Delhi is huge, and we’re only scraping the surface, so before we expand any further we really want to be the dominant players in this market first”, sums up Thandi.
As the trio vows to woo more coffee drinkers across the NCR, we’re already nose deep in a coffee-tequila shot, and two bittersweet cold brew martinis. The recipe for that super-heady martini is here.
If you’re thinking of hopping aboard the cold brew coffee wagon, head to their website and subscribe to their single box or trio box here.