Super Grade Monsooned Malabar is low in acid, high in body, and has a mellow, pleasant, earthy flavor.
History Of Coffee In India
Most people in North America thing of India as a leading producer of fine teas. Few associate India with top grade specialty coffee. Actually, India has been a producer and exporter of exceptional coffees for over 160 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 Moslem pilgrim, Baba Buden, with secretly bringing back seven coffee seeds from a pilgrimage to Mecca. He is said to have planted these near his mountain cave in Chikmagalur, 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, soil rich in humus content, and well drained sub soil ideal for coffee cultivation.
Coffee Production Today
India produces both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans in roughly equal quantitates. Out of about 200,000 tons of coffee produced each year, India exports nearly 60 percent. These exports consist mainly of high grade beans from both Arabica and Robusta growing regions. Indian coffee has always been known as well-balanced coffee with outstanding aroma and exceptional quality in the cup, commanding a premium on the European market.
Grades of Indian Coffees
As in most producing countries, India produces coffee by washed (or wet) as well as natural (or dry) methods. Washed Arabica is known in India as Plantation Coffee and washed Robusta as Parchment coffee. Natural processed coffee, both Arabica and Robusta are called Cherry.
Monsooned coffees are truly one-of-a-kind in that they do not look like or taste like any other coffee from any origin. The bean size, color and cup characteristics are the result of a unique post-harvest processing these undergo in India.
In olden times, coffee was shipped from India to Europe in wooden 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 the coffee reached Europe, it had changed its color from bright green to a pale gold, and had lost its new crop acidity. It was mellow in the cup and easy to stomach. Europeans loved this coffee not realizing at that time how unusual it was.
When steel ships started carrying coffee and they steamed through the Suez Canal, sailing time became shorter, coffee stayed dry and green, and it retained its acidity. The monsooning process was later developed in India to restore coffee’s then familiar flavor by simulating the unique treatment coffee received en route to the European ports.
The Monsooning Process
The monsooning process consists of exposing natural processed coffee beans in layers of four- to six-inch thickness to moisture laden monsoon winds in a well ventilated brick-or-concreate-floored warehouse This process is carried out on the coastal regions of Western India making use of winds from the Arabian Sea during Southwest Monsoon months of June thru September.
One starts with the top grade beans, Arabica Cherry-A, that have 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 long term storage.
In this 12-16 week process, these beans absorb moisture in stages, swell to nearly twice the original size, develop color ranging from pale gold to light brown and acquire a special unique flavor. At this stage, moisture content is 14.5% up from 10.5% for regular Indian coffees, and most importantly, it has become the lowest acid coffee in the world. In the cup they display lots of body and a pleasant earthiness.