Nestled in the southwestern region of India, Kerala is a picturesque coffee-growing region whose name is pronounced as "Ke-ra-la." This tropical paradise is situated along the Malabar Coast and boasts an average altitude of 900 meters above sea level. An interesting fact about Kerala is that it is one of the few places in the world where rainfall is experienced twice a year, providing a unique environment for coffee cultivation.
Coffee has a rich history in Kerala, dating back to the 16th century when it was first introduced by the Sufi saint, Bababudan. His journey to the Middle East resulted in him bringing back seven coffee beans, which he planted in the hills of Kerala. Since then, coffee cultivation in the region has grown significantly, with both Arabica and Robusta varieties being produced in the region. This growth has made Kerala one of the prominent coffee-growing regions in India, contributing significantly to the country's coffee production.
The farming and processing methods in Kerala are a mix of traditional and modern practices. The majority of coffee farms in this region are small-scale, family-owned plantations that have been passed down through generations. This, combined with the region's fertile soil and unique weather conditions, has led to the production of high-quality coffee beans.
In Kerala, coffee is mostly shade-grown, with the plants being sheltered by the canopy of diverse tree species. This method of cultivation promotes biodiversity and helps maintain the ecological balance in the region. It also provides additional income for the farmers through the cultivation of other crops, such as pepper and cardamom, which grow alongside the coffee plants.
The processing of coffee in Kerala is generally done using the wet method, where the coffee cherries are pulped, fermented, washed, and then sun-dried. This method is known to enhance the flavor and quality of the beans, resulting in a clean and bright cup profile. However, there are also instances where the dry method is used, where the cherries are sun-dried and then hulled to remove the outer skin and pulp. This method often results in a more fruity and complex flavor profile.
Coffees from Kerala are known for their distinct flavors and aromas, which are influenced by the region's unique climate, soil, and cultivation practices. The Arabica beans produced here typically exhibit a mild acidity, medium body, and delicate floral notes. On the other hand, the Robusta beans are known for their bold, earthy taste, and low acidity.
Some common flavor notes found in Kerala coffee include caramel, chocolate, nutty, and spicy undertones. These flavors come together to create a well-rounded and balanced cup of coffee that is both satisfying and enjoyable.
In the world of specialty coffee, Kerala has made a name for itself by producing high-quality beans that showcase the region's unique characteristics. With a rich history, diverse cultivation practices, and distinct flavor profiles, Kerala coffee is a testament to the passion and dedication of the farmers who have cultivated this remarkable beverage for centuries.