Nestled in the southern part of India lies the picturesque region of Tamil Nadu, pronounced as "Ta-mil Na-du." This fertile land, known for its rich history and diverse culture, is situated along the southeastern coast of the Indian subcontinent. With an altitude ranging from 1,000 to 1,600 meters (or 3,200 to 5,300 feet) above sea level, Tamil Nadu is not only home to lush landscapes but also to a lesser-known treasure: its own unique, specialty coffee. One interesting fact about this region is that it houses the famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The cultivation of coffee in Tamil Nadu dates back to the early 19th century, when British settlers introduced the crop to the region. European settlements began to pop up throughout the 19th century until the region was made independent during the Indian independence movement of the middle of the twentieth century.
The Nilgiri Hills, part of the larger Western Ghats mountain range, provided the ideal terrain for coffee cultivation due to altitude, climate, and fertile soil found in the area. Over the years, coffee production in Tamil Nadu flourished, and the region went on to become one of the major coffee-producing areas in India. Today, Tamil Nadu origin coffee is highly sought after by coffee aficionados around the globe determined to experience its unique qualities, which you can find below in the tasting notes section.
Coffee farming in Tamil Nadu is predominantly undertaken by small-scale farmers who own plots ranging from one to five acres. Most of these farmers follow traditional cultivation methods, which include shade-grown coffee plants that are interspersed with native trees and other vegetation. This practice not only aids in preserving the region's biodiversity, but also contributes to the distinct taste profile this origin.
In terms of processing methods, there isn't a single, specific technique that is unique to the region. However, in general, Indian coffee is known to be processed using the wet or washed method. This involves removing the outer skin and pulp of the coffee cherries, followed by fermentation to remove the mucilage. The beans are then washed and spread out to dry, either on raised beds or drying patios. This method is known to produce a cleaner and more consistent cup of coffee, which is characteristic of Indian specialty coffee.
Tamil Nadu coffee is known for its balanced flavor profile, with a medium to full body and bright acidity. The beans often exhibit fruity and floral notes, with hints of citrus, tropical fruits, and jasmine. The majority of variations within this origin are reported to also exhibit strong chocolate after-notes and rich, sweet, fruit flavors coming through. In addition, common spices, such as cardamom and cloves, make an appearance as well. This unique combination of flavors makes Tamil Nadu coffee a delightful and refreshing experience for the palate.
One of the most well-known coffee estates in Tamil Nadu is the Thalanar Estate. Situated in the Anaimalai Hills, this estate has been producing high-quality coffee for over a century. The Thalanar Estate follows sustainable farming practices and is known for its commitment to preserving the region's biodiversity. Their coffee beans are highly sought after for their distinctive flavor profile and exceptional quality.
In summary, Tamil Nadu is a region with a rich history of coffee cultivation that has been largely overlooked by the specialty coffee community. The unique terroir, traditional farming practices, and meticulous processing methods contribute to the exceptional flavor profile of Tamil Nadu coffee. As more coffee enthusiasts discover the hidden gem of Tamil Nadu, its specialty coffee is bound to gain the recognition and appreciation it truly deserves.