Please tell us how did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
It happened quite by chance that Ms Renuka Gangadhar came into the world of coffee. As a grade 8 student, she was introduced to coffee by a trainee teacher who brought into the classroom a coffee plant, a coffee maker and some coffee berries to showcase the coffee making process. The interaction piqued her curiosity and the bright young Renuka had a lot of questions to ask!
It was only many years later, after she had completed her masters in the field of nutrition and had worked for a few years in education and primary health care that an advertisement in the newspaper brought her into contact with the Coffee Board of India. Sensory evaluation had already been a part of her training and Renuka got the job of a coffee taster!
What was your career path?
Through the Coffee Board, Renuka was part of the team that travelled across 8 countries sponsored by the International Trade Centre, visiting Croydon, Oslo, and finally training at Hamburg.
She travelled to the coffee growing regions in India and was part of the technical committee that would advise the growers on how to dry, how to store, cure and other aspects along coffee value chain. Those were the days in which all growers sold all their produce to the Coffee Board and so it was up to the Coffee Board to ensure that each grade of coffee was uniformly managed, since produce from several coffee farms would come to the Coffee Board to categorize and sell in the world market.
When India liberalized coffee in 1995, it was a historic moment that changed the way coffee was sold from the country. Mrs Sunalini Menon started Coffee Lab and Renuka became an integral part of the Coffee Lab team. Illycaffè’s Università del Caffè holds a special place in the memory for Renuka. It had illycaffè and Coffee Lab partnering to educate growers across Chikmagalur, Hassan, Coorg Sakleshpur etc. about producing coffee that would meet international standards. It was a mobile classroom and all training material and the trainers travelled extensively, booking halls, providing training in batches, analysing samples and giving advice on what can be done differently.
What do you love about your job?
Coffee Lab’s contribution to the world of Indian coffee is monumental and Renuka has been part of it from the start, being involved in coffee grading, cupping and helping to select the right coffee to be sent to coffee giants across the world.
The world of Indian coffee has been revolutionized, world markets and tastes in coffee have changed and the domestic coffee market has transformed. Through all these changes, Renuka’s career and contributions to coffee have endured for 35 years. In the fickle world that we live today, few people can say, like Renuka can, that I have been part of this aromatic world for more than 3 decades!