Mangalore is the home to a coffee brand, though the commodity is not grown in the region. Monsoon is an important factor in deciding the quality of this brand.

‘Monsooned Malabar’ coffee, which is a product of Mangalore, commands a good market in Scandinavian countries.

Mr K.D. Thimmaiah, General Manager, Coffee Division, Aspinwall & Co Ltd, Mangalore, told Business Line that ‘Monsooned Malabar’ is a speciality coffee that is mild and mellow.

The Scandinavian countries are the major market for this speciality coffee.

Of the 5,000-plus tonnes of ‘Monsooned Malabar’ coffee exported from India, Aspinwall has a share of almost 55-60 per cent, he said adding that ‘Monsooned Malabar’ Arabica garners a major share of around 4,000 tonnes while the Robusta variety takes the rest.

Export growth

To a query on the growth in the exports, he said India has been witnessing an annual growth of around 5 per cent for this speciality coffee. In terms of price, this brand commands 10-15 per cent premium in the export market compared to the normal coffee.

Asked about the domestic market, he said Indians do not prefer the taste of this brand. Aspinwall’s ‘Monsooned Malabar’ coffee is for the export market, he said.

A majority of the ‘Monsooned Malabar’ is produced in Mangalore. Apart from Aspinwall, two more companies are into its production in the city.

The process

On the impact of the decline in rainfall in the recent years, he said risk is there if the monsoon fails. However, he said: “We do not require heavy downpour for this. We need the monsoon weather and the humidity for this process.”

Explaining the process, Mr Thimmaiah said the crop is procured against the order during February-April.

Not all the grades of coffee are suitable for ‘monsooning’. The higher grades, which coffee curers say ‘AA’ and ‘A’, are selected and stored in the warehouses.

From mid-June to mid-September, these beans are exposed to moisture-laden monsoon winds in the well-ventilated warehouses. During this period, the beans turn from green to golden brown in colour and bloat in size.

In September, the product is polished, garbled and graded. Then it is shipped out to the respective destinations in the food grade gunny bags, he said.

Origin of Monsooning

The origin of ‘Monsooned Malabar’, which got GI (geographical indication) tag in 2007-08, is quite interesting.

It is said that the ‘Monsooned Malabar’ had its genesis during the British era. The export of Indian coffee to European countries through wooden vessels used to take almost six months to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and reach the destination.

Exposed to humid conditions on the sea, coffee beans changed their size, texture and look when they reached the destinations. The Europeans loved the unique mellowness of this coffee.

The opening of Suez Canal brought down the transit time to the destinations drastically. Following this, the Europeans did not get the same feeling in the coffee.

Then it was observed that a similar ambience could be simulated from Talicherry in Kerala to Mangalore belt along western coast during the monsoon months to bring about this transformation. This led to the process called monsooning, Mr Thimmaiah said.

(This article was published on July 15, 2012)
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