India is one of the most diverse and culturally rich countries on the planet. Home to one-sixth of the world’s population, the country has thousands of individual ethnic groups, accompanied by hundreds of languages and numerous religions. India is separated from the rest of Asia by the vast Himalayas at the Northern tip of the country. To the Northwest India is bordered by Pakistan, to the North by Nepal, China and Bhutan, to the East by Myanmar and Bangladesh, and to the South the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
Coffee was first introduced to India in 1670 when, according to legend, the Sufi Baba Budan brought seven seeds into the country when returning from a pilgrimage to Yemen. Coffee was first cultivated in the foothills of mountains in Chikmangalur, in Karnataka State. From here coffee cultivation blossomed, with the first plantations flourishing across the country under British colonial rule during the 19th century. Today coffee grows mostly in the hills of the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, where some 250,000 farms produce both Arabica and Robusta coffees.
|Annual production:||5.3 million bags|
|Altitude range:||500 - 1500 masl|
|No coffee farmers:||250,000|
|Harvest times:||November – March|
|Key growing regions:||Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu|
|Typical varieties:||Kent, Catimor, Caturra, S.795|
|Grading system:||Graded by process (Cherry, Parchment, or Plantation) and by size (AAA, AA, A, PB etc)|
|Processing type:||Washed, Honey and Natural|
Most of the coffee in India is grown by smallholder farmers with little more than 10 hectares of land. Coffee is traditionally shade-grown and intercropped with plants such as cardamom, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, which broadens biodiversity whilst generating extra revenue for coffee growers. The primary Arabica varieties cultivated in India are Kent (the earliest Arabica varietal planted in the country named after the Englishman L. P. Kent) as well as S.795, Catimor and Caturra. An outbreak of coffee leaf rust disease in the 19th century caused much of India’s production to migrate over to Robusta, which comprises around half of India’s production today.
Coffee is typically processed as either Washed or Natural, however there is also some Honey-processed coffee within estates as well as the ‘Monsooned’ coffee, a process exclusive to the Malabar Coast that exposes coffee to the rain and winds of the monsoon season. Washed Arabica is graded as ‘Plantation’ coffees, Washed Robusta as ‘Parchment’ and Naturals as ‘Cherry’. Sizes are also used to grade coffee, which ranges from AAA through to PB. Research and development of the coffee industry is organised through the Indian Coffee Research Institute, a subsidiary of the Coffee Board of India. The Coffee Research Institute has five research stations dotted throughout India’s coffee growing regions providing support in agronomy, soil science, agricultural chemistry, and post-harvest technology with the aim of increasing productivity and quality of coffee grown in India.