At first glance, Avani Davda looks like any other young person standing outside Starbucks waiting for a cup of coffee. Davda, 33, is not your typical customer. In fact, she is head of the Starbucks-Tata joint venture that brought the U.S. coffee chain to a country that traditionally wakes up to tea.
Davda is getting used to coffee, but as a vegetarian, she has not tried most of the non-vegetarian items on Starbucks’s menu.
In an interview with Reuters on March 25, she spoke about the chain’s progress since opening its first India location in Mumbai. It now has 11 locations in Mumbai and Delhi.
(Read Ankush Arora’s related blog on Starbucks in India)
Q: What makes the Indian palate different than elsewhere?
A: India particularly perceives coffee to be very sour, (and) black coffee to be very acidic … (Also,) you don’t have availability of uniform milk, and our palates are trained accordingly. A lot of work went into building that and understanding, how do you make an Americano or a latte taste the same everywhere.
Q: You source your India coffee locally, though Starbucks coffees are supposed to have uniform tastes. How do you replicate the taste?
A: The main espresso blend that goes into most of the coffees that we do is what we focus on … Even internationally, they are sourced from certain places and then roasted. (Our people) understand that whether the coffee is roasted in the U.S. or in the Tata Coffee plant at Coorg, it has to taste the same.