India's Wayanad region (pronounced "why-nad") is nestled in the lush, mountainous area of Kerala, a southern state in India. Located at an altitude of 900-2,100 meters above sea level, Wayanad is known for its rich biodiversity and fertile lands. An interesting fact about the region is that it's home to one of the largest tribal populations in India, with over 50 different tribes residing there.
Coffee has been cultivated in the Wayanad region for over 250 years. The British introduced coffee plantations in the late 18th century during their colonial rule in India. In the mid-19th century, the Arabica variety of coffee was introduced to the region, which thrived in the high-altitude climate. Today, Wayanad coffee is recognized globally for its distinctive taste and aroma, contributing significantly to India's coffee production.
While specific farming and processing methods may vary among individual farms, generally, coffee in Wayanad is grown using traditional, eco-friendly techniques. Most coffee farms in the region are small-scale and family-owned, with coffee plants cultivated under the shade of taller trees such as silver oak and jackfruit. This method not only preserves the region's rich biodiversity but also results in higher-quality coffee beans.
The primary coffee processing method used in India, including the Wayanad region, is the wet or washed process. The outer skin and pulp of the coffee cherries are removed using a pulping machine, and the beans are then fermented in water for up to 48 hours to remove the remaining mucilage. After fermentation, the beans are washed thoroughly and laid out to dry, either on concrete patios or raised drying beds. Once the beans have reached the desired moisture content, they are hulled to remove the parchment layer and sorted by size and density before being bagged and shipped.
Wayanad coffee is known for its bright, fruity acidity and medium body. The Arabica beans grown in this region often exhibit flavors of ripe fruit, such as black currant and cherry, as well as subtle floral and citrus notes. The Robusta beans, which also grow in Wayanad, tend to have a more robust, earthy profile with hints of cocoa and spice. The combination of these unique flavors and the region's high-altitude growing conditions make Wayanad coffee a sought-after specialty coffee.
One notable farm in the Wayanad region is the Thalanar Estate, which has been in operation for over a century. Owned by the Thalanar family, the estate spans over 1,000 acres and is committed to sustainable farming practices. They have even established a wildlife corridor on their property to support the local ecosystem. The Thalanar Estate is known for producing high-quality Arabica beans, which are sought after by specialty coffee roasters worldwide.
The Wayanad region's rich history, traditional farming techniques, and unique flavor profiles make it a fascinating and important contributor to the global specialty coffee industry. With a continued focus on sustainability and quality, Wayanad coffee is sure to remain a favorite among coffee enthusiasts for years to come.