India's Nilgiri (pronounced neel-guh-ree) coffee-growing region is tucked away in the southern part of the country, nestled within the picturesque Blue Mountains. The region is characterized by its high altitude, ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 meters above sea level, and is known for its diverse and unique microclimates, which contribute to the distinct flavors of the coffee grown here.
Coffee cultivation in India's Nilgiri region dates back to the early 19th century, when British colonialists introduced the crop as a means of diversifying their tea estates. The region's high altitude, fertile soils, and temperate climate proved ideal for growing high-quality Arabica coffee, which quickly gained a reputation for its unique and distinguished flavor profile. Throughout the years, the Nilgiris have continued to maintain a strong presence in the global specialty coffee market, with the region's coffee production now extending to include both Arabica and Robusta varieties.
The majority of coffee farms in the Nilgiri region are small-scale, family-owned operations, with a strong emphasis placed on sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices. Shade-grown coffee is the norm here, with coffee plants cultivated under the natural canopy of native trees, which not only helps to preserve the region's rich biodiversity but also contributes to the unique flavor characteristics of the beans.
There isn't specific information about processing methods in the Nilgiri region, but in India, the most common coffee processing method is known as "wet processing" or "washed" processing. This involves fermenting the freshly harvested coffee cherries in water to remove the fruit pulp, then thoroughly washing the beans to remove any remaining residue. The beans are then left to dry in the sun, either on raised beds or on large patios, before being sorted, graded, and bagged for export.
Coffees from the Nilgiri region are known for their bright acidity, medium to full body, and a complex flavor profile that often includes notes of fruit, spice, and chocolate. The distinctive terroir of the Nilgiri mountains, combined with the region's diverse microclimates, results in a wide range of flavors and characteristics that can vary from farm to farm, and even from one harvest to the next. Some common tasting notes in Nilgiri coffees include citrus, tropical fruit, black pepper, and dark chocolate, often accompanied by a pleasantly sweet and lingering aftertaste.
India's Nilgiri region is a hidden gem in the world of specialty coffee, offering unique and diverse flavor profiles that are a testament to the region's rich history, distinctive terroir, and commitment to sustainable farming practices. As you explore the world of Indian coffee, be sure to savor the exceptional beans from this remarkable region, and experience the nuanced flavors that have been cultivated within the Blue Mountains for centuries.