India - Monsoon Malabar AA
Varietal(s): Chandragiri, Hemavathi & Selections 9 & 795
Processing: Natural processed monsoon
Altitude: 800 meters above sea level
Region: Karnataka State
Located in one of India’s primary coffee-growing regions, Karnataka, sits the foothills of Baba Budan. The hills of Baba Budan make up part of the Western Ghats, a 1,600km mountain range rich in flora and fauna and well known for being a biodiversity hotspot. In particular, the town of Chikmagalur, where this coffee is from, is home to several natural streams, allowing the area to support a rich ecosystem.
Regarding varieties, much of the region formerly is home to solely Red Catucaí trees, known locally as HDT. More recently, new varieties such as Chandragiri, Hemavathi & Selections 795 & 9 are being selected. These varieties are selected on recommendation from the Central Coffee Research Institute and the Government of India. Extensive research has been conducted in the region, with these varieties in particular selected for their high yields, improved quality and resistance to pests and diseases.
‘Monsooning’ is a process unique to India, with a lengthy history and producing a distinctive, potent cup. It dates back to coffee farming under British colonial rule when during the several months that it took to ship green coffee from India to Europe, the humidity and sea winds caused the beans to swell and age. As transport improved and the beans suffered less from the elements on the route, European coffee-drinkers noticed that the coffee was losing the character and distinctive, bold flavour they were used to.
To combat the issue, a new process was devised to replicate the conditions that produced this singular coffee. To create the modern ‘monsooned’ crop, natural sun-dried green coffee is stored in open-sided warehouses on the coast, in this case in Mangalore, allowing moist tropical air from the monsoon winds to blow through the storage area. Over a 2 to 3 month period, the beans absorb moisture, lose a degree of their natural acidity and swell to around double their original size, becoming brittle and pale. The process starts when the monsoon season begins in June/July and is usually completed by the end of October. The result is an earthy, pungent, low acidity cup, which is often used to add body and weight to fine espresso blends.