Sunalini Menon has grown up in coffee since her post graduation in Food Technology from the University of Madras, India in 1972. She has spent more than 40 years in coffee in the arena of quality and has worked as a quality evaluator, as a trainer, as a coffee blender, as a developer of green coffee brands, as a judge in coffee competitions, as a writer of coffee articles and even as a coffee guide to new coffee entrepreneurs. Her career commenced in the Coffee Board of India, where she was trained in the art and science of cupping and quality evaluation, not only becoming the first woman coffee taster in Asia, but also ultimately heading the Quality Control for Indian coffee at the Coffee Board of India, as the Director (Quality Control).
In 1996, when the market for Indian coffee was liberalised, Sunalini helped in the setting up of a lab called Coffeelab in Bangalore. This lab is the first of its kind to be established in the private sector in India, providing comprehensive quality related services not only for the Indian coffee industry, but also for coffees from other producing origins and even certifying coffees for consuming countries. The lab undertakes the training of personnel connected with coffee, as also coffee lovers and coffee consumers on the art and science of cupping.
Sunalini undertakes the evaluation and certification of coffee that is exported from India. She has also helped in taking forward the cafe and barista movement in India, besides training and educating the baristii and the consumers in the country on the fine nuances of the espresso cup.
Her skill in quality evaluation is respected and recognized the world over. She is not only considered as one of Asia’s recognized coffee cuppers, but is also invited by coffee origins to conduct cupping workshops, to educate coffee entrepreneurs and enthusiasts on the finer nuances in the coffee cup, beside making presentations on coffee quality at International conferences.
She is a Coffee Corps Volunteer of the CQI (Coffee Quality Institute, USA) and has carried out numerous technical assignments. She has many awards to her credit; to name a few:
- “Eminent Personality Award for Outstanding contribution to Indian Coffee” from the Speciality Coffee Association of India in January 2005.
- The “Life Time Achievement Award” from the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, USA in April 2005.
- The “Hidden Treasure Award” awarded to Coffeelab by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe in May 2006.
- The “Leadership Medal of Merit’ from the Coffee Quality Institute of the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in April 2010.
- The “Alfred Peet Passionate Cup Award” from the SCAA in April 2014.
- ‘Jewels of Karnataka – Eminent Woman of Substance 2016’ for being Asia’s First Woman Coffee Taster from the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka on International Women’s Day in March 2016
- “First Lady Achievers Award” – “Asia’s First Professional Woman Coffee Taster” awarded and presented by the President of India in January 2018.
Sunalini is an Independent Director of M/s. Tata Coffee Limited, one of India’s leading producer and exporter of coffee. She is also a Director on the Advisory Committee of the ‘Alliance for Coffee Excellence'. Sunalini is a Licensed Q and R grader of the CQI and at present, is the President of Coffeelab Limited, Bangalore.