Nestled in the verdant landscapes of the Western Ghats in southern India, the Chikmagalur region (pronounced chick-ma-ga-lur) is a hidden gem in the world of specialty coffee. Located in the Indian state of Karnataka, Chikmagalur boasts an average altitude of around 1,000 meters above sea level, making it an ideal location for coffee cultivation. Interestingly, Chikmagalur is known as the birthplace of Indian coffee, with a rich history dating back several centuries.
The history of coffee cultivation in Chikmagalur dates back to the 17th century when the Indian saint, Baba Budan, brought coffee seeds from Yemen and planted them in the hills of Chikmagalur. The region's fertile soil and favorable climate soon led to the growth of a thriving coffee industry. Today, Chikmagalur is home to numerous coffee estates, producing some of the finest Arabica and Robusta beans in India. The region's coffee history is deeply intertwined with its local culture, with coffee playing a significant role in the livelihood of the local communities.
In Chikmagalur, coffee is predominantly grown on smallholder farms, with farmers employing traditional and sustainable cultivation methods. The coffee plants are typically grown under the shade of tall trees, which helps maintain soil fertility and provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife. This method of shade-grown coffee not only results in better quality beans but also has a lower environmental impact compared to sun-grown coffee.
While specific processing methods may vary among the different coffee estates in Chikmagalur, the majority of the coffee produced in the region follows the wet processing method, also known as the "washed process". In this method, the coffee cherries are depulped and fermented to remove the mucilage surrounding the beans. The beans are then washed and spread out to dry, either on raised beds or drying patios. This process helps retain the beans' inherent flavors and results in a clean and vibrant cup profile.
Chikmagalur coffee is renowned for its unique flavors that embody the region's diverse terroir. Arabica beans from the region often exhibit delicate floral aromas, with bright acidity and a light-to-medium body. On the other hand, Robusta beans from Chikmagalur tend to have a more robust flavor, with a heavier body and lower acidity. When it comes to specific tasting notes, Chikmagalur coffee can offer a wide range of flavors, from fruity and citrusy notes to earthy and spicy undertones. Some common flavor profiles include notes of tropical fruit, such as mango and papaya, as well as hints of chocolate, nutmeg, and cardamom. The complexity of Chikmagalur coffee makes it a favorite among specialty coffee enthusiasts who appreciate its distinctive character and depth of flavor.
As the birthplace of Indian coffee, Chikmagalur has a rich history and a strong tradition of coffee cultivation. The region's unique terroir and sustainable farming practices contribute to the exceptional quality of its beans, which are prized for their diverse flavor profiles. For those looking to explore the world of specialty coffee, a taste of Chikmagalur is a journey worth embarking on.