Your Complete Guide to Indian Coffee
While coffee from India may not yet be buzzing on your java radar, it’s an origin the Coffee Direct team and our customers absolutely adore.
ntriguingly intense but subtle with spicy notes, coffee from India is as delicious as it is accessible. From exploring how it first arrived in India to learning more about one of the most sought-after coffee varieties, Monsoon Malabar, below, we encourage you to fall for the charms of Indian coffee.
What is Indian Coffee?
Perhaps surprisingly, India is one of the world’s largest coffee regions - sixth in the world. Unlike other coffee-growing countries, it’s the only one to grow its coffee entirely under shade. Protected by canopies of evergreen trees, the beans are enriched by nutrient-dense soil from neighbouring lush vegetation and shielded from seasonal weather fluctuations.
What’s more, coffee plantations are often interspersed with spices like cardamom, clove and nutmeg, which gives the beans an even more fragrant aroma.
While India's states produce 16 unique coffee varieties, the country is most known for its much-celebrated Monsoon Malabar - a globally recognised Indian coffee name. The production process of these beans is unique. Monsoon Malabar Beans are exposed to harsh monsoon conditions for months at a time, creating a much sweeter, more fragrant beverage.
Where in India is coffee grown?
India’s main coffee growing regions are in the south, namely the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. South India is blessed with a wildly diverse climate which creates wonderful growing conditions for the country’s finest Robusta and Arabica coffee beans. India’s coffee output is about 72% Robusta and 28% Arabica beans.
What does Indian coffee taste like?
Typically mild and not too acidic, Indian coffees possess an exotic, full-bodied taste and a fragrant aroma. But as India’s climates and growing terroir differ, so do the country’s flavour profiles.
Due to its exposure to wind and rain, Monsoon Malabar coffee has an elevated sweetness with earthy and tobacco notes. Meanwhile, Mysore coffee from Karnataka has higher acidity with a subtle but rich flavour and medium body.
A little bit of history...
It is widely believed that Coffee was first introduced to India in the late 17th century. The myth goes that in 1670, a Sufi Indian pilgrim by the name of Bada Budan smuggled seven beans in his beard from Yemen’s port of Moka back to Mysore. He planted them in the Chandragiri hills of Karnataka and what began as humble plantlings soon blossomed into verdant coffee trees.
The Dutch (who occupied much of India at the time) helped get the process of cultivating coffee plants underway, but it was the arrival of the British Raj in the mid 19th century that really kickstarted India's coffee farming industry. India’s coffee production was once mostly Arabica however tragedy struck throughout the 19th century, when coffee rust infected the Arabica coffee plants, leading to the more sturdy Robusta replacing it almost entirely.
Founded in 1907, the India Coffee Board became the country’s key regulator to ensure quality and consistency for India’s coffee exports. In 1995 growers gained more independence by becoming free to sell their coffee wherever they liked. Today, the Indian coffee market is flourishing. India has about 410,000 hectares of coffee farmland, with about 80% of its coffee being grown on small farms.
Coffee recipe: how to make South Indian filter coffee
In South India, coffee is traditionally prepared using a drip method process to create what is known as South Indian filter coffee (also known as 'Kaapi' or 'degree coffee'). Served in a steel tumbler and 'dabarah' saucer, it's a milky and sweet morning treat.
Our South Indian coffee recipe will show you how to make South Indian coffee at home.
- 1-1/2 tablespoons ground Indian coffee
- 100ml hot water
- 100ml milk
- 2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
- To start making your ‘degree coffee’, add hot water to the ground coffee, using a regular drip filter to prepare your coffee decoction. Or if you have one, use a proper South Indian coffee maker which comprises of two cylindrical cups.
- In a saucepan, bring the milk to boil and add sugar for additional sweetness.
- Pour the hot coffee decoction into a tumbler or regular cup, then add the sweetened milk and carefully froth.
- Feel free to sprinkle your favourite spice on top of your brewed coffee to create a really flavoursome kaapi.
The history and legend of Monsoon Malabar
Monsoon Malabar is India’s most revered and refined coffee and was discovered entirely by accident. Centuries ago when beans were transported to Europe on cargo ships, monsoon winds would cause the beans to swell, change colour and acquire a new mellow flavour.
Today, these beautiful characteristics are recreated by ‘monsooning’ the beans. Arabica beans grown in the mountainous region of Malabar are harvested, washed in spring water and left to dry in the sun. Then, after being transported to open-roofed warehouses, the coffee beans are exposed to bitter winds and rain for up to four months. Mother Nature’s harsh elements cause the beans to swell and lose some of their acidity, resulting in a sweeter, remarkably flavoursome beverage.
Coffee Culture in India
Despite India being a major powerhouse of global coffee production, coffee culture itself is still relatively new. 80% of India’s coffee is exported, and tea is the country’s go-to brew of choice. But, like most places in the world, the youthful trend for coffee shop hangouts is growing steadily.
In terms of an Indian coffee industry overview, India now sees a 5% increase in coffee consumption each year, no small thanks to the likes of Café Coffee Day (India’s answer to Starbucks) exploding in popularity over the country.
Café Coffee Day wasn’t first on the block, however. The India Coffee House chain was established in the 1940s when the country was still under British rule. Founded as a workers cooperative, this iconic coffee shop now has over 400 branches in India.
The best Indian coffee in the world
At Coffee Direct, we are proud to sell some of the best Indian coffee beans. From our legendary Monsoon Malabar to Baba Budan’s original Mysore Coffee, below you’ll find some more information about these delicious Indian coffees.
Exposed to months of wind and rain to create a sweeter swollen bean, our Monsoon Malabar Coffee bursts with aromas of dark chocolate and nuts. Grown close to exotic spices like anise, cardamom and pepper, spice is another defining flavour of this much-celebrated coffee.
Monsoon Malabar makes superior espressos thanks to its excellent crema, while it harmonises beautifully with milk to make tasty cappuccinos and flat whites.
“Monsoon Malabar is the best coffee I’ve ordered from Coffee Direct so far. Strong but nicely balanced with low acid. Lovely aroma. Absolutely love it! No need to add milk as its taste is so subtle. Perfect for my bean to cup machine. Highly recommended if you are a fussy coffee drinker.”
Marzena K. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Lovely and rich smoky coffee. Just the thing for a treat after a cold country ramble! Love it! That Malabar blend is awesome.”
Clare L. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
When Baba Budan first smuggled his seven beans to India from Yemen’s port of Moka, he brought it to the state of Karnataka. Grown in the Karnataka city of Mysore, this sumptuous coffee has a subtle, rich flavour with medium acidity. It blends well wonderfully with mocha coffee and is perfect for every day sipping with milk and sugar.
“It’s very difficult to find Mysore coffee beans, so I was delighted to find them on your website. We like the combination of Mocha/Mysore beans which we use in a percolator.”
David C. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“This Mysore coffee has a very smooth roast and is full of flavour. Great in my bean-to-cup machine.”
George B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Is Indian coffee good?
Yes, Indian coffee is a very good choice for everyday drinking. If you're looking for an extra-refined cup, treat yourself to the delicious Monsoon Malabar variety.
Indian coffee filter vs French press - what's the difference?
If you're following an Indian coffee recipe, it's great if you can use a traditional South Indian coffee filter for this brewed coffee. But if you don't have one, a French press will work just as well with hot water and coffee grounds. The key to this kind of coffee brew is in the hot frothy milk and sugar. Follow our coffee recipe above to make the genuine article.
Is coffee native to India?
No, coffee is not native to India, it was first brought to India in 1670 from Yemen by Bada Budan, who according to legend, smuggled seven beans in his beard.
Wondering where to buy Indian coffee powder/beans in the UK?
To buy the best Indian ground coffee or beans, simply shop Coffee Direct. Our premium quality Indian coffee beans are sourced from the finest growers across the world. With over 30 years’ experience delivering 100 variations of speciality beans direct to your door, we are connoisseurs of variety, flavour and provenance and won't be beaten on Indian coffee price.
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