Indian Monsoon Malabar
Most people in North America think of India as a leading producer of fine teas. Few associate India with top grade specialty coffees. India has been a producer and exporter of exceptional coffees for over 150 years. Today, India is the fifth largest producer of Arabica coffee in the world, behind Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Ethiopia.
India’s romance with coffee goes back nearly 400 years. Legend credits a Muslim pilgrim, Baba Budan, with bringing back seven coffee seeds from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He is said to have planted them near his mountain cave in Chikmahlur, Karnataka State, now considered the cradle of Indian coffee.
Commercial cultivation of coffee in India began in 1840 when the British established coffee plantations throughout the mountains of Southern India. They found the tropical climate, high altitude, sunny slopes, ample rainfall, and soil rich in humus content, and well drained sub soil ideal for coffee cultivation.
The color, shape, and size of the beans as well as their aroma and taste are the results of special post-harvest processing. There is no other coffee like it in the world.
In olden times, coffee was shipped from India to Europe in wooded sailing vessels, taking four to six months to sail around the Cape of Good Hope before reaching their destinations. Coffee, stored below the water line and kept in a humid atmosphere by the little moisture seeping through the wood, underwent a form of treatment on its long voyage to the market. When that coffee reached Europe, it had changed its color from bright green to pale gold, and had lost its new crop acidity. The monsooning process was later developed in India to restore coffee’s then familiar flavor by simulating the treatment coffee received in the wooden sailing vessels in route to the European ports.
The monsooning process consists of exposing natural coffee beans in layers of four- to six- inch thickness to moisture laden monsoon wind in a well ventilated brick or concrete-floored warehouse. This process is carried out on the West Coast of India making use of the winds from the Arabaian Sea during the Southwest Monsoon months of June through September.
The processing begins with top grade beans, Arabica Cherry-AB that has already been processed by the dry method. To equalize moisture absorption, the beans are raked frequently, followed by bulking and re-bagging at regular intervals. At the end of the monsoon season, this coffee is re-bulked, graded again, bagged and moved to a drier region for longer-term storage. In this 12-16 week process, these beans absorb moisture in stages, swell to nearly twice their original size, develop color ranging from pale gold to light brown and acquire a special, unique flavor.
spicy, earthy, smoky, tobacco notes, wood notes, medium body, medium acidity