How is Indian coffee different from the coffee drunk around the world?
What is commonly served in India is an 80% arabica and a 15-20% robusta blend. Pure arabica, the coffee variety indigenous to Yemen where it was first cultivated, is what is considered “good” coffee around the world. Robusta is a high-yielding, disease resistant variety of the arabica.
What is the peaberry then?
Arabica and robusta are two kinds of coffee bushes which bear a fruit called the cherry. Most cherries have two coffee beans. These are graded according to size A (smallest) and AAA. But a small number of the cherries in these plants have only one coffee bean, and this is the rare peaberry bean. This double bean is supposed to be more flavourful than a sister bean on the same bush.
What is south Indian filter coffee?
Though some south Indian filter coffees use pure arabica, the filter coffee one would have in a typical south Indian home would be a blend of arabica with some robusta and/or chicory.
Chicory was long considered a lowly additive, but experts are now recognizing that it adds texture and gives south Indian filter coffee its caramel notes and distinctive orange tint.
How has India’s coffee trade grown so rapidly in the last five years?
For years now, a serious plant disease called “coffee rust” has threatened to wipe out entire plantations of arabica worldwide, so much so that in 2011, arabica prices rose to a 13-year high. Indian coffee-growers have beaten their competition by pumping up their output of robusta. While this is a shift away from the premium to the plebeian, the move has sustained plantations. While arabica is more flavourful, robusta gives coffee its heft and strength.