Indian Monsooned Malabar Green Beans
Most people in North America think of India as a leading producer of fine teas. Few associate India with top grade specialty coffees. India has been a producer and exporter of exceptional coffees for over 150 years. Today, India is the fifth largest producer of Arabica coffee in the world, behind Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Ethiopia.
India’s romance with coffee goes back nearly 400 years. Legend credits a Muslim pilgrim, Baba Budan, with bringing back seven coffee seeds from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He is said to have planted them near his mountain cave in Chikmahlur, Karnataka State, now considered the cradle of Indian coffee.
Commercial cultivation of coffee in India began in 1840 when the British established coffee plantations throughout the mountains of Southern India. They found the tropical climate, high altitude, sunny slopes, ample rainfall, soil rich in humus content, and well drained sub soil ideal for coffee cultivation.
The color, shape, and size of the beans as well as their aroma and taste are the results of special post-harvest processing. Indian coffee was historically shipped to Europe in wooden sailing vessels, taking four to six months to sail around the Cape of Good Hope before reaching their destinations. Coffee, stored below the water line and kept in a humid atmosphere by moisture seeping through the wood, underwent a form of treatment on its long voyage to market. When the coffee reached Europe, its color had changed from bright green to pale gold and its new crop acidity had disappeared. This "Monsooning" process was later systematically replicated in India with the goal to consistently reproduce the familiar flavor from the historic voyages to the European ports.
The Monsooning process consists of exposing natural coffee beans in layers of 4-6 inch thickness to moisture-laden Monsoon winds in a well ventilated brick or concrete-floored warehouse. This process is carried out on the West Coast of India, making use of the winds from the Arabaian Sea during the Southwest Monsoon months of June through September.
The processing begins with top grade beans, Arabica Cherry-AB, that has already been processed by the dry method. To equalize moisture absorption, the beans are raked frequently, followed by bulking and re-bagging at regular intervals. At the end of the monsoon season, this coffee is re-bulked, graded again, bagged and moved to a drier region for longer-term storage. In this 12-16 week process the beans absorb moisture in stages, swelling to nearly twice their original size and developing colors ranging from pale gold to light brown. The end result is a special, unique flavor.
Monsooning is only done with naturally processed coffees; the raw coffee looks very pale and is somewhat brittle. Their brittle nature means that a bag of roasted coffee often contains lots of beans that have been damaged in the packing process. This is nothing to worry about and is not the same thing as low-grade coffees that contain broken pieces in them.
During the monsooning process, coffee usually loses its acidity, but often gains pungent, wild flavours that make it somewhat divisive in the coffee industry. Some love the richness and intensity of the cup, while others believe the flavours are the result of defective processing and are very unpleasant. The only way to see where you stand is to try it!
spicy, earthy, smoky, tobacco notes, wood notes, medium body, medium acidity
South India - Karnataka, Western Ghats
1,100 - 1,200 meters
Kents, S.795, Catimor, Selection 9
October - February
Spicy Flavor, Earthy, Spicy, Smoky