Most individuals in India are quite familiar with the early history of coffee in their country. Coffee was not a native plant in India. The legend of how rich, full-bodied coffee came to India is attributed to the city of Mecca. As the story goes, a pilgrim on his pilgrimage to Mecca, Baba Budan, smuggled seven coffee beans into India.
Of course, as with most legends, this one became a tradition that reveres Baba Budan as a saint for growing coffee seeds in a garden known as Chandragiri. From a coffee garden, the nearby hills, Chandra Drona, became what may have been the first coffee "plantation" in India.
Today, coffee plantations are located mainly in southern India. The first commercial coffee plantation was begun in 1840. This is also where the British began cultivating and producing Arabica coffee and also Indian Robusta. Coffee plantations were located throughout the mountains of Southern India.
INDIAN COFFEE HOUSE
History of Coffee in India
India's climate is ideal for growing coffee. It is hot and humid, yet cool enough near southern India's hills and mountain areas to create the finest coffee blends in the world. The soil in these regions is highly fertile for growing coffee. There is well-drained subsoil, ample rainfall and sunny slopes that encouraged the cultivation of coffee.
The coffee industry in India grew to epic proportions by the time the British began to take control of many areas of India and colonize them.
By the 19th century, the Maharaja leased coffee collections to the British Parry & Company. This was Britain first entry into India's coffee industry. India would become the sixth largest coffee producer in the world.
The first European coffee plantation was believed to be opened in North Coorg, a province near Mercara or Madikeri around 1850, know as Mercara Estate.
The coffee growing regions of India are located in Karnataka State, Kerala State, and Tamil Nadu. The Western Ghats are home to most of India's coffee plantations. Early Bhatkal merchants traded coffee crops for cash and other things.
Coffee Plants Need Shade
Over the centuries of coffee history in India, it is interesting to note that various evolving cultivation practices showed coffee plants thrived best in shade. In India, shade on coffee plantations consists of upper permanent canopies or lower, temporary canopies.
Coffee History and India's Economy
When tourism to India became popular, this helped India's economy, but not as much as India's coffee industry. Today, travelers to India find accommodations on coffee plantations that double as tourist lodgings.
Thus, India's economy benefits from tourism and coffee production and exportation. Many plantations owners built palatial estates when coffee began to increase their wealth and status. Some of these palatial estates have become luxury tourist accommodations.
When many coffee groves on plantations began to proliferate, plantation owners sold coffee saplings to locals who, in turn, traded their crops with Arabs for gold and salt. Locals crops were referred to as "wild coffee" and spread to Chikmagalur toward Mysore and Kodagu or Coorg.
The Mopla community from Kerala State traded with the Arabs. This was how Kodagu became involved in coffee growing and trading. Locals became quite proficient at growing coffee on steep slopes of Western Ghat mountains. These crops were believed to be wild coffee.
Coffee Production Grows
In less than a quarter century, approximately 44,000 acres became sites for growing coffee. For example, By 1880 on the European plantation in Coorg, the number of coffee growing sites doubled to the point where coffee and Coorg were interlinked.
In Europe, Mysore coffee was in great demand. Each of the two types of coffee grown in India, Arabica, and Robusta, also have their own varieties. For example, Arabica has four varieties that include Cauvery Coffee, Kents Coffee, Sin.9 and S. 795. Whereas Robusta has two varieties, CxR Coffee and S.274 Coffee.
Since its early history in India, coffee beans are still picked by hand. Today, coffee lovers who brew their coffee in special coffee machines like Nespresso, choose designer coffee beans from India. Nespresso machines are a convenient way to enjoy brewed espresso, flavored coffee and Arabica and Robusta coffee at home or at work.
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.