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.