The Origins of your Coffee
Your coffee is grown in one of the ‘hottest biological hotspots’ of the world, the Western Ghats of India, a range of mountains even more ancient than the mighty Himalayas. Coorg, or Kodagu as it is officially called, is a tiny district tucked away into the steep slopes and deep valleys of a particularly fecund stretch of this ecological treasure, in the South Indian State of Karnataka. Until the mid-1800s, Coorg remained an isolated place inhabited chiefly by its original people – forest dwellers, hunters and farmers. In 1834, the then British government of India displaced the local king and took over the administration of the district. They brought in large scale changes that completely transformed the place and the single most important factor in this transformation was coffee.
Coffee first entered Coorg by way of neighboring Malabar traders and quickly became a homestead crop; to be grown in their backyards, the berries picked, dried and de-husked at home and used for personal consumption. Coffee soon made itself at home in Coorg and became a local favorite, especially to kickstart one’s system on freezing cold Coorg mornings. Before long, people commenced large scale cultivation of Coffee and the government started granting forest lands for agricultural use with stringent restrictions on tree felling.
Coffee in its original state is a shade loving plant, so people began growing plantations with minimal forest damage; a blessing because the Western Ghats is an area of massive global importance due to its biological and cultural diversity. Today, this small coffee growing district popularly nicknamed, ‘The Coffee Cup of India” produces over 1,30,000 MTs of coffee a year, which is nearly 40% of the total coffee production of India. And, around 70% of Indian coffee is exported to European markets.
Green Coffee Beans...
Your coffee bean begins its journey with the Spring rains in February-March, which help the coffee tree spring forth its stunning white blossoms, perfuming the air with its inimitable fragrance. If the rains do not come in as expected, the plantations are artificially irrigated through a sprinkler system.
Around November-December, the ripe berries are completely handpicked, sparing the trees the ignominy of being shaken ruthlessly by harvesting machines to divest them of their produce. ‘Selective picking’ of perfectly ripe berries is done by those who plan to wet process their coffee and ‘outright picking’ is done when the plan is to sun-dry the coffee berries and then de-husk them.
Once the raw green coffee beans are extracted from their husks, it is roasted to bring out the aromas and flavor. If you prefer a milder flavor but higher caffeine content, a light roast is the way to go. But, if your passion is for strong flavored coffee with its aromatic essential oils wafting in the air, and a lower amount of caffeine, a dark roast is your best friend. However, the final product can be prepared according to your preference.
Arabica Coffee Beans
With 60% more lipids and twice the concentration of sugars compared to Robusta, Arabica is a much more flavorful and aromatic coffee. However, it is also milder, thinner and relatively more acerbic. More than 70% of the coffee grown in the world is Arabica. It is less robust than Robusta, tolerates cold weather but not frost, loves sunshine but not too much of it, and should be carefully tended to, as it has a propensity to over produce and exhaust itself, resulting in poor yields in succeeding years.
Arabica grows best in elevations between 600 m to 2200 m altitude, however plantations have successfully grown it in relatively higher and lower elevations. It is a self-pollinating plant; nevertheless, cross pollination helps increase both the quantity and quality of the yield.