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Coffee Dossier – all about coffee in India

Tags: coffee

The flowers of the Coffee Bean

As a drink that most of South India wakes up to, coffee has no parallel. Coffee lovers cannot do without their morning cuppa and freshly brewed filter coffee is seen in almost all South Indian households. Incidentally India has an interesting history and is the sixth largest producer of coffee globally.

The ripened coffee beans ready for processing

Looking Back

To go back in time, it is believed that Baba Budan, a sufi saint from the 16th century smuggled in seven coffee beans from Mocha, Yemen while returning from a Haj journey and planted them in Chandragiri Hills in Kadur district in Karnataka. This was the first coffee plantation in the country that spread to Coorg in Karnataka and other parts of the Eastern and Western Ghats of the country.

The coffee plants are grown under a natural shade and the plantations in India happen to be one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world. The majority of coffee is grown in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and there are plantations in Araku, Andhra Pradesh and Daringbadi, Odisha as well.

The coffee grown in India is primarily two kinds – Arabica (a mild, aromatic version) and Robusta (a strong, robust variant) as well as a third hybrid between Liberica and Arabica. Once the British came to India, commercial plantation of coffee started in the 18th century and today over 75 percent of the coffee produced is exported.

The Coffee Board of India established in 1942 is a Government body that works towards promoting and protecting the interest of coffee growers in the country. Again, it is primarily women who work in the plantations and they wear traditional headgear while their nimble fingers pick the ripe red berries.

A women coffee worker airing the beans

Plantation Trails

The best way to come up close with the laborious process that traces the bean to cup process, you could visit and stay at coffee plantations in India. In Coorg you can experience an interesting tour at Tata Coffee Plantation Trails and also at The Tamara Resort. Interestingly each of these trails highlight so many aspects of coffee that it certainly brings forth the hard work of the people who toil on the plantations.

Likewise in Sakleshpur, Classic Coffee’s Harley Estate will take you through the entire process of coffee from the harvesting to the various stages of processing. You can also do a coffee appreciation session with a certified coffee barista and also understand how the taste of coffee varies based on the kind of filter used.

Coffee Beans on a coffee shrub

Coffee Museum

If you are visiting Chikmangalur, a stop at the Coffee Museum is a must. This an immersive space that takes you through the history of Indian coffee, its legends, the cultural practices nurtured by tradition and enhanced by technology as well as the research and development activities. You can even watch a short film on coffee through the ages here.

This is where coffee grading and sorting techniques are also explained. The museum also touches upon emerging areas of interest including coffee and health, sustainability and ecology and tips on how to brew a great cup of coffee. The museum is interactive and a visit here is an enriching experience.

Going Arty

India is also seeing a clear trend where coffee is becoming a popular drink and speciality coffee and artisan coffee is fast gaining ground. Micro roastaries where coffee is roasted in small batches for better control over profile roasting is becoming a trend too. Recently the Nullore microlot of Tata Coffee grown in the Tata Coffee Ltd estate in Coorg was selected to the Starbucks reserve program. Coffee is certainly making giant strides and as Jackie Chan says, “coffee is a language in itself.”

This story appeared in Culture here:

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Coffee Dossier – all about coffee in India


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