Review – Koinonia Coffee Roasters, Khar

Coffee has always represented the odour of sanctity to this writer, who made many childhood pilgrimages to the Kochu Guruvayur temple on Bhandarkar Road, Matunga, where the air is redolent with the smell of beans roasting at Mysore Concerns and filter brewing at the tiffin houses. So the sacerdotal cast of Koinonia, with its biblical-Greek name and facade built around a gleaming statue of Christ on the cross, seems right in keeping with its perfume. Heavenly, you might say.

Where celebrities & hipsters flock

Inside Koinonia’s tiny roastery and café, three certified coffee experts are engaged in spreading the good word about their single-estate Nilgiri beans and how to drink them. An admirably austere menu announces coffee and nothing else. There’s barely room for anything other than the gleaming steam engine of a roaster-grinder: eight people and a barista would fill this place to bursting. When Kiran Rao slides in unannounced to take away a beverage, an impassioned discussion about craft coffee precedes the order.

It could all have been so irritatingly hipster, except that the first coffee we try, made with Koinonia’s Marvahulla estate beans, is the best flat white we can remember drinking. With its roasted hazelnut taste, overtone of chocolate and a smooth, creamy texture that almost makes a meal in itself, this is a medium-sized miracle. If you’re not looking for autumnal fairytales in your cuppa, fair enough: it also keeps us awake through a very sticky, boring afternoon, and will likely do the same for you.

It could all have been so irritatingly hipster, except that the first coffee we try, made with Koinonia’s Marvahulla estate beans, is the best flat white we can remember drinking.

What you should order

Koinonia director Siddhartha Marchant tells us the café is currently using Marvahulla for all its coffee (although you can buy three other varieties from the roastery). Beans vary in taste depending on the preparation, though. The milky cortado is strong enough that Italians might forgive you for pouring it into your system after 10 am: here, the forgiving sweetness of milk is cut sharply with a more bitter blossom on the tongue. Our companion points out disapprovingly that this cortado is more like a cappuccino than an espresso, but we like the interplay of flavour and texture.

These strengths show to rather weaker effect in a mocha, where the addition of dark, show-offy cocoa powder renders the coffee more bean-like, leaving us faintly resentful of being made to drink something like protein. A legume-y aftertaste also chases an otherwise drinkable pour-over black coffee, beautifully leached of any smokiness or acidity, and great for a mid-morning pick-me-up.

Weirdly, the thing we like least out of everything we drink at Koinonia — and by now, our nerves are jangling with all the high-quality caffeine — is the house cold brew, chill to the touch, cute in its stylised cough syrup bottle, and cuter still served in a small whiskey tumblr, on the rocks. Perhaps this is a hint about the maltiness of the brew: warm and woodsy in itself, but intriguing for not entirely pleasant reasons.

We must admit we’ve been spoiled by the tart, wine-like cold brew at Pali Naka’s Kitchen Garden. As the heat does its best to murder us in coming months, though, we know we’ll be back to give this another shot. For more reasons to return, there are also Koinonia partner Jenna’s delicious bundt-shaped chocolate macarons and buttery oat biscuits, tiny cheerful surprises that will appear on the side of your coffee cup if you manage to squeeze yourself into a seat on this train. For that flat white, we’d even cross a Z-bridge all over again.

Getting there: Koinonia Coffee Roasters, 66 Chuim Village, Khar. Rs 160 for a flat white. The café is closed on Tuesdays.

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