Kochi: Indian speciality coffee will take on international speciality coffees at a contest in California scheduled for the month of May, according to G.V. Krishna Rau, the chairman of India’s Coffee Board.
Speciality coffee is termed thus because of its unique flavour and the contest is part of the annual conference of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. India produces 300,000 tonnes of coffee, of which just 15,000 tonnes is speciality coffee. This fetches a 50% premium over average coffee prices of Rs110-120 a kg.
Rau said a dozen varieties of robusta coffee from India would participate in the contest under the Flavour of India Fine Cup badge.
The special flavour of each of these, he added, comes from the large size of the bean, the high elevation where the crop is grown, and special curing, fermenting, processing and roasting methods.
Based on these distinctions, Indian speciality coffee goes under different categories such as monsoon coffee, 795 grade and Selection 9 and Selection 10.
The monsoon coffee is India’s special brand, said Specialty Coffee Association of India president Ashok Kurian. Its genesis can be traced to World War II when Indian coffee beans were shipped to soldiers serving in Scandinavian countries. The shiploads of coffee took a few months to reach their destinations and absorbed moisture from the sea wind giving the coffee a different flavour.
Even now, this coffee is made through a process called ‘monsooning’ where beans are stored in special warehouses along the western coast of India, allowing limited moisture from the sea breeze to work on the beans, giving it a slightly yellowish tinge. Coffee grown in high altitudes, 4,000 feet above sea level, is also endowed with a distinctive taste, said Kurian. Speciality coffees need good harvesting practices; the beans need to be identified and segregated by size; and they sometimes need to be processed to suit the needs of the buyer.
Rau said the California conference would have a meeting of buyers and sellers, and an exhibition of coffees from around the world. For the Coffee Board which is trying to improve quality of the crop, use better technology in coffee production, and promote organic coffee, the conference presents an opportunity to understand how things are done in other parts of the world and showcase Indian coffee.