During the reign of the British Raj, coffee from India was shipped to England on vessels that took several months to reach their destination. During this period, the coffee was subjected to moist and saline ocean winds, which paled the colour of the beans and increased size considerably. They also showed an increase in moisture content of upto 6 per cent, forcing roasting methods to change quite drastically. In fact, these coffees had to often be re-dried again, in order to facilitate roasting processes.
In effect, raw coffee that reached the coast of England, wasn’t actually the same coffee that left Indian ports at all. It was in fact, what we now call the Monsooned Malabar coffee. Of course, back then it was just known as “coffee” by the British coffee drinkers, who later began to complain that their coffee began to taste “strange.”
It was a brilliant, albeit anonymous person of Indian origin, who figured out that the coffee was not receiving enough exposure to the elements as ships got faster with improving technologies and container packaging methods got more sophisticated. This same person then proceeded to design a method to simulate the “seasoning” process even before the coffee left India, and this is actually the reason for this rare coffee earning its name.
This full-bodied but mellow coffee, lacks the acid bite that Arabica is renowned for, but fully makes up for it with notes of spice and nuts that carry through the roast, and are sometimes even accentuated by specifically chosen roast profiles.
The Indian government even has a system, whereby products that are best grown or prepared within specific geographic boundaries can be earmarked for a geographical indication tag. Monsooned Malabar is one such product, and has earned the right to be produced only between Cochin in Kerala, all along the south-west seaboard of India, right up to Mangalore in Karnataka, which is right across the border from Kerala.
This is the Malabar coast, and the Monsooned Malabar has played an instrumental role in providing this famous coastline with its unique identity. The Monsooned Malabar has also played, and will continue to play, an important role in the designing of espresso coffee blends worldwide, providing them with an unparalleled body and flavour!
Cheers to the monsoon, and cheers to the Malabar coast!
Truly passionate about coffee, the writer has a masters in coffee economics and science, at the Ernesto Illy Foundation, at Trieste, Italy and comes from a family of coffee cultivators that have over 60 years in the industry....