Coffee Lover: Hari Balaraman


Hari is one of Sparkplug Coffee's first customers and he lives close to Sparkplug coffee HQ in Toronto so his coffee is delivered on foot instead of via Canada Post. Recently, Hari invited me to stop in to sample a cup of kopi luwak (aka civet coffee or cat poop coffee) that he'd purchased in his travels. I took the opportunity to quiz him about his coffee habits.

Hari and his coffee (love the Tintin mug - I [heart] Captain Haddock, too!) 

Hari and his coffee (love the Tintin mug - I [heart] Captain Haddock, too!) 

Name:  Hari Balaraman

Where do you live?  East side of downtown Toronto

Occupation: corporate lawyer with a private practice focused on startups, medium sized companies, and companies operating internationally.

I get up in the morning dreaming about the cup of coffee I’ll make in my moka pot. It gives me a reason to get out of bed.

Years as a coffee drinker:  A little over 30 years -- since I was 9 years old (!!!) My mother allowed us to have one drop as kids, growing up in India. 

What do you love about coffee?  Everything!

What's the most memorable coffee you've ever had?  Espresso in the Frankfurt airport. It was really good and was the first time I thought I could drink coffee without milk and sugar.

How do you make your coffee?  Moka pot (stovetop espresso) and a KitchenPro handgrinder

What's your coffee style?  Milky but strong flavour, espresso style with milk (not foam). 

Favourite place to go out for coffee?  Sumach Espresso - nice people there!

Usual order at a cafe?  Flat white

It’s a bit of a bummer, I’ve reduced my cafe visits because the Sparkplug Coffee I make at home is better than coffee I get at cafes.

What's your Sparkplug Coffee order?  A fan of East African coffees, currently Hari gets Road Trip on Autopilot which has a lot of Ethiopian beans in the blend. 

What do you love most about Sparkplug Coffee?  

  1. Good quality. 
  2. Shows up at my doorstep.
  3. Tastes better than at the cafe. 

Do you have a coffee secret to share?  Use a stovetop espresso / moka pot. It's way tastier than drip coffee!  

Is there anything you'd like to spread the word about?  Hari is working on a contracting drafting tool for small businesses and in-house lawyers. It'll save money and time by automagically drafting commonly needed contracts such as NDAs, service agreements and shareholder agreements. (Super impressive - Hari has learned how to code and built most of this tool on his own!) Check it out at StartupLegals.ca - the Contract Drafting Engine is free to use while it is still in beta (not fully released). 

my first taste of kopi luwak from Bali, Indonesia AKA cat poop coffee & the most expensive coffee in the world 

my first taste of kopi luwak from Bali, Indonesia AKA cat poop coffee & the most expensive coffee in the world 

And what about the cat poop coffee? Unfortunately, it was not great. Although Hari is a master with a moka pot, the kopi luwak was ground very fine, more like for Turkish coffee. The grind was too fine for his moka pot, and the coffee was not fresh at all since Hari had bought it during an Indonesian trip several months before. It was drinkable and fun to try. And a good lesson in why coffee should be drunk up within a few weeks of roasting - and as soon as possible after it's ground! 

Regardless, I'm very grateful to have had a chance to try it, and really enjoyed my visit with Hari. 

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