A Legend who is putting Nagpur on the World Coffee Map

This Story is a 7 mins Read |

Well, let’s go back to 2017, a time when coffee in Nagpur was mostly about a date, perhaps a business meeting, or to pull off an all-nighter! And then, “Corridor Seven” happened – a legend that introduced our city to a speciality coffee culture, slowly, steadily, and successfully.
Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters doesn’t need any introduction, not only within our city limits but even across the Indian coffee industry. About a year back, one of my friend had a few guests come over from Tamil Nadu, and the first thing they asked him was, “Hey, we want to visit your city’s Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters on this trip.”
So, in a few lines or so, this is about the legacy of the brand. But truth be told, today’s read is beyond the brand and is about the man who made this brand a business as well as a culture. We recently got a full golden hour to catch up with the founder and brand architect of Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters, the ever-genius Mithilesh Vazalwar – a National AeroPress Champion (2017), a National Barista Champion (2022), and one of the official jury members of the recently concluded World Coffee Conference 2023 held in Bangalore.
In the next 5-10 minutes, what you’re about to read will be beyond coffee knowledge and might blow your mind at regular intervals, but most importantly, it is the epitome of understanding and getting to know Mithilesh and his Corridor Seven that nobody ever knew about. So here we go.

“It was the year 2002. I used to grab ground coffees from South Indian grocery stores and brew my filter coffees. I loved that time, no in-depth knowledge yet the passion to brew more and keep it simple. During my Chartered Accountancy studies, my sister gifted me my first coffee machine. At that time, I would often imagine myself brewing coffee as if I were in a café, preparing it for customers. Never did I imagine this impossible drink would take me places or help me put my city Nagpur onto the World Coffee Map.

FYI, I am a Chartered Accountant, and what if I tell you that CA did play a role in this Coffee Journey of mine? Back at that time, I used to drink almost 15-16 cups of coffee a day, in fact, even to fall asleep. After CA, I decided to travel to Australia for a Firm Tie Up and well, that took me to Melbourne. I frankly owe a lot to this city Melbourne and you will know why as I tell you more…

Oh, and I forgot to share, during this trip, my sister suggested I explore something new and take a coffee course. Intrigued by the idea, I enrolled for a two-day workshop on coffee. In the land Down Under, during the workshop, I had my first hands-on experience with a portafilter, and something clicked within me. It’s hard to describe, but as I observed the journey of coffee from bean to liquid, I felt an inexplicable connection. Meeting various roasters and Q graders further fuelled my curiosity. And then, the pivotal moment occurred when I witnessed someone deeply engaged in the act of sipping and tasting coffee with a spoon. I was like, what are you doing? Guess what was that? Cupping. It was then that I got validation to my curiosity that there was so much more to coffee than what you see. That moment ignited a passion within me, and I knew that understanding the intricacies of coffee was what I wanted to pursue.
I then returned to India and told my family that I was choosing the Coffee Route, for life. I was destined for a career in coffee. I found myself drawn to the world of coffee without a clear plan or direction. Unsure of how to proceed, I asked my father for two weeks to figure things out. It felt like a strong calling, a deep-seated desire to delve into the world of coffee. And serendipitously, an opportunity presented itself when Blue Tokai, a prominent coffee brand, tweeted about their need to hire roasters and brewers. Truth be told, I was not that active on Twitter, but I was one of their first 50 followers. That night, I sent them an email detailing the passion I had for coffee followed by the course I had completed in Australia. And that’s how I officially got into the Coffee World.

September 6, 2015, was my first day followed by a day I will never forget – 9 Sep, I cupped about 30 variants of Coffee at the Roastery and that is how I got introduced to the Zombie side in me. Later, seeking to deepen my knowledge and skills, I travelled to Chiang Mai to learn from my mentor, Alexander Nikolai, followed by an enrolment in an SCA course. Now, do you remember I told you about Melbourne? Guess what, destiny had it that I went back there for my Q grading course after detailed advice from another mentor of mine – Simon Jones. I knew very well that if I had to develop a taste for Coffee and clear my Q grading, I had to cup often and so, there I was, in the city of Melbourne, with a spoon in my pocket jumping coffee shops daily across the city. And that was just another episode of Melbourne, yet again playing a role in my quest to be the best at what I love doing.

And finally, & ultimately, I was back in Nagpur where I purchased a roaster, got my hands on coffee beans from across our country and well, started Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters. 2017 was the year, and it was the first time that the AeroPress Championship was hosted in India. Without any plans to compete in this prestigious tournament and very little preparation, I ended up winning it remarkably. This was one of the biggest moments of my Coffee Journey, I would say, not in terms of personal achievement but in marking our city on the World Coffee Map.

Fast forwarding now to C7, we set up our shop in Buldi – a place anyone would least expect to set foot for a peaceful cup of Coffee. Many of the businesses revolve around philosophies like road-touch locations, but for me, it was to pull my coffee lovers no matter where they are and hence the crowded market area. I am sure you were also a part of the Buldi outlet culture – least close to aesthetic, rugged, and hidden in the chaotic streets of Buldi. I knew I didn’t open the outlet to be a profit from day one, I knew good things take time, and now the rest is history. One of the biggest challenges I faced was the lack of a supportive ecosystem in our city to cultivate my coffee business. From difficulties in sourcing appropriate packaging materials to bottle caps, I had to look beyond local resources to meet my needs. Despite encountering scepticism from others who doubted the feasibility of my venture in Nagpur, I remained steadfast in my conviction that if it could be done elsewhere, it could be done here too. Oh, and I hope you haven’t forgotten Melbourne by now because it is beyond our understanding how destiny would take me there, yes, once again. 2022 was the year I represented India for the 2nd time, this time for the World Barista Championship. I must honestly tell you, the city feels like a soul city to me by now because I know there is a lot more To come my way, and I am sure I will be crossing more paths via Melbourne, so yes, I owe a lot to this city and its people.

Coming to this day, we very well know how coffee culture has picked up in our city as well as across India. But let me shoot a myth here – India’s Coffee Culture is not growing as fast as we imagine it is. And I will tell you why, just because of inflated egos and lack of collaborations. I have not just had a dream run but even a few nightmares. For coffee, I believe collaboration, rather than competition, should be our focus. Not sure why we as brands in Nagpur are not breaking the ice, collaborating and making events like Sundowners, Coffee Cocktails, and Cook Outs happen. I mean, let’s do it together, man. The city is ours, the people are ours, so why compete? Can’t we just help each other grow and build a strong coffee community? You won’t believe the culture in Thailand is the opposite, Cafes and people come together to collaborate and help each other win. I have always believed in success through mutual efforts, never in competition. I feel my competitor is my next outlet. Period. I hope this blog helps to reach out to the right people and that we collaborate for the betterment of coffee and its enthusiasts. And truth be told, Nagpur has the potential and I just can’t express it in words. One of the biggest milestones for C7 was recently when we held an AeroPress Competition. About 100 participants participated. Can you imagine 100 Home Brewers doing AeroPress in one day? But now what I am about to tell you will give you goosebumps. Will you believe it, on that day, about 400+ people showed up for the competition and everyone, I mean everyone wanted to sip on the participant’s AeroPress coffee!. It was such a happy surprise to us that we had to buy about 400 spoons for the crowd that day as things went so crazy. You see, this is why I think our city has immense potential and all we need to do is simply collaborate and brew some kickass coffee.

Okay, this has been an amazing conversation. Normally I have good conversations about coffee, but today I had an amazing conversation on coffee. So before we close this blog, tell me 3 things about you or C7 which nobody knows about.

“Okay, interesting one. Let me think.

1. I start my day with a Masala Chai. I am serious, man. “Nahi hota uske bina.”
2. My first outlet was initially planned not in Nagpur but in Viman Nagar, Pune and uhhhh!
3. Yeah, Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters was initially planned to be named as Liberal Ground Coffee Roasters.

Wondering why C7 was going to be named Liberal Ground Coffee Roasters? Ask the legend himself on his Instagram @roasting_hands.

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