India may be most famous for its tea, but it’s also one of the biggest coffee producers in the world. If you’re a coffee fan like me and planning a trip to India in the near future, then it’s worth getting to know more about Indian coffee. Trust me, it will taste even better when you have an appreciation of the story that surrounds those roasted beans of South Asian joy.
To help you on your journey of discovery, I have drawn together this beginner’s guide to coffee from the magical land of the Taj Mahal, River Ganges, and Agra Fort.
An Indian Muslim saint called Baba Budan was the first to bring coffee beans to India, from Arabia, in the late 1600s. He planted the seeds in a hill situated within what is now the state of Karnataka in southern India. The cultivation of coffee followed gradually, and the first plantation was established in 1840. Coffee growing also spread to the other southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The British colonial presence in India from the mid 19th century helped to accelerate coffee production for export. However, a combination of the success of tea, and a disease called coffee rust, meant coffee-growing declined. It wasn’t until the commercial success of Indian filter coffee in the 1970s that coffee production began to grow again.
Indian Filter Coffee
Indian filter coffee may sound like a regular filter coffee you can get anywhere, just made using Indian coffee beans. Don’t be fooled though, this drink is something entirely unique. It’s delicious! It is brewed with heavily sweetened hot milk, chicory (a plant from the dandelion family), and dark roasted Indian coffee beans. First emerging in the south, it can now be found across India.
An enjoyable quirk of Indian filter coffee is that it is served with two small metal cups. The locals pour the drink between the two cups a number of times before they take the first sip. This practice emerged as a way to cool the liquid enough to drink. However, it also feels like a ritual homage to the beautiful drink, once you get the knack of it.
Monsooned Coffee Beans
Today, Indian coffee is grown almost entirely in the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The main bean varieties grown are Arabica and Robusta. Collectively known as ‘Indian monsooned coffee’, the beans are stored outside after harvesting, exposed to the monsoons of the south.
The rains give the coffee a unique taste, increasing sweetness and weakening acidity. They are often grown alongside cardamom and cinnamon too, giving a spicy flavor.
The popularity of coffee continues to rise in India, which has led to an increase in coffee shops throughout the country. Big chains include Cafe Coffee Day, Indian Coffee House, and Barista Cafe, as well as western favorites Starbucks and Costa.
Independent cafes are abundant too. All the regular coffee drinks are available, such as latte and cappuccino, as well as innovative local beverages.
The magic of Indian coffee awaits. Combine your sipping with an organized tour around the famous sites, and you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.Image 1: Яна Тикунова from Pixabay. Image 2: Hans Ripa Image 3: Meriç Dağlı