The fifth largest producer in the world, India accounts for 4.5% of worldwide production. The first coffee cultivated was an Arabica variety from Yemen in 1610. The coffee was introduced into the region currently known as Karnataka (formerly Mysore), the richest coffee area today and together with Kerala and Tamil Nadu, located at the southern tip of the country, constitutes the so-called “coffee chain”. In 1820, the British began to market it with the robusta variety only introduced in 1905 from shrubs originating in Indonesia. In 1820, the British began to market it with the robusta variety only introduced in 1905 from shrubs originating in Indonesia.
Indian coffees are mainly classified according to preparation method and sieve, and the size of the grain. The Arabica or robusta coffees which are prepared via the dry (natural) method are called Cherry; coffee prepared through the wet (washed) process is called Plantation if Arabica or Parchment if robusta.
Since 1991, thanks to liberal economic government policies and other measures to improve product quality, many companies became involved in the coffee trade ranging from supply chain to production to export. In recent years, the export of gourmet coffee has gained ground, nowadays highly prized and used in many fine blends such as Kaapi Royal and Mysore Nuggets. Special mention should be made of Monsonato coffee, nowadays considered a special coffee but born out of “error”, and discussed in further detail below.
This quality now considered gourmet was born by mistake when ships on their long journey of nearly six months transported coffee from the Indian peninsula to northern Europe, exposing the commodity to the humidity and saltiness of the ocean; the coffee that arrived at its destination was swollen and the color changed from green to a pale yellow. With the modernization of sea transportation and the opening of the Suez Canal, shipping times were greatly reduced and coffee lost this peculiarity. Consumers, however, had come to associate Indian coffees with those characteristics and prompted producers to artificially reproduce the “monsooning” effect. To do this, the coffee in the May-June period is spread out in well-ventilated warehouses and exposed to moisture for 4-5 days; it is then bagged and placed in rows far apart. To make the moisture absorption uniform, the grains are handled, raked and rinsed regularly for a period that can vary between 12 and 16 weeks. Finally, the coffee is manually selected by removing defective grains and is then ready for export.