History of Coffee in India

When it comes to beverages, most people associate India with tea, not coffee. But the fact is, coffee's been growing in India for centuries, with origins dating back to 1670 AD when Baba Budan came to India from Yemen and planted coffee beans at the foot of the Chikmagalur hills. Still, for all its history, good coffee in India is a relatively new concept. Until the mid-1990's, the Indian government handled all coffee sales, but recent decades have seen farmers take control of their crops which has resulted in a boost to both quality and sales. The change in India's coffee industry is in many ways emblematic of the country's own emergence as an economic powerhouse. Like the country itself - populous, diverse, and ever evolving - India's coffee is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with, and a proud member of gourmet coffee circles around the world.

Characteristics of Indian Coffee

One of the reasons India gets a bad wrap for coffee is that two thirds of its beans are Robusta, the long-vilified sibling to Arabica. True, India produces its fair share of so-so beans, but that one-third of Arabica, as well as some of their wet-processed Robusta varieties, make Indian coffee worthwhile. These coffees tend to be well-balanced and mild with pronounced body and low acidity. Sometimes you'll find hints of spice or subtle earthiness, depending on the bean and the roast.  

And then there's India's famed "monsooned coffee", a different beast altogether, both in flavour and production. Here, coffee in parchment is left in open-sided warehouses and subject to the effects of humidity during the monsoon season. The result is a deliciously sweet, woody coffee, perfect for people who love their coffee strong and with deep earthy flavours. Monsooned Malabar Coffee often ranks among the best coffees in the world and, according to the India Coffee Board, is particularly well loved by Scandinavians!

Indian Coffee: Interesting Facts and News Bites

  • The Chikmagalur hills are called Bababudan Giris in honour of the Muslim Pilgrim who, legend has it, first planted coffee in India.
  • Coffee is grown primarily in the hill tracts of South Indian states, with approximately 250,000 coffee growers total, 98% of which are small growers producing on a plantation-ownership basis. 
  • As of 2009, India coffee comprised 4.5% of the total coffee production and was the 7th top producer of coffee in the world. 
  • The "monsooning" of coffee first happened by accident when a shipload of coffee bound for Europe became swollen en route due to the moisture in the air and acquired a unique, mellow flavour. Thus, monsooned coffee was born and has since become associated with of the world's best coffees. 


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