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Rich tradition flavors royal Indian coffees.

Indian Coffee - distinctive, delicious, and distinguishable is the season's hottest discovery. The infinite care taken by the Indian coffee farmer to maintain high standards of quality at each stage of processing, from the seed to the cup, has yielded the desired results - a unique blend of rich tradition and royal quality coffee.

In India, both Arabica and Robusta are grown. Of the Arabica coffee produced, approximately 75% is converted into washed coffee - Arabica Plantation - and the remaining 25% is prepared by the natural method and referred to as Arabica Cherry coffee. At present, there is a high demand for washed coffees in the international market, the emphasis in India is to increase the production of both washed Arabica and washed Robusta.

Characteristics of Indian coffee

Indian Coffee has distinctive quality characteristics, which have enabled its presence in coffee blends the world over. The Indian Arabica coffee comprising long and wide beans, bluish grey in color when washed or golden brown to greenish brown when unwashed and the Indian Robusta coffee with broad oval beans, smaller in size than Arabica and grayish green in color when washed or golden brown to light brown when unwashed, have been obtained through effective quality control measures implemented at all stages of coffee processing on the farm and at the curing factory.

Regulatory agency for coffee quality

The quality control for Indian coffee is carried out by the quality control department of the Coffee Board of India, which is the regulatory agency for Indian coffee. While on one hand, there is a control measure to select and prepare uniform cup quality coffees for export, on the other hand, there is a scheme to effect payments to farmers based on the visual quality of their coffees.

Adopting correct processing techniques on the farm has been the primary function of the Coffee Board, as the intrinsic quality of coffee is established on the farm. Once quality is adversely affected, no amount of processing at the curing factory will improve the aroma and flavor characteristics of coffee.

Processing of coffee on the

Indian coffee farm

The accent at the time of harvesting is the picking of ripe berries - "just ripe" berries. After picking, the coffee berries are once again sorted out to remove the overripe and green cherries, if present. Research over the years has established that the presence of overripes or greens would result in a "fruity" or a "raw" cup, respectively.

Only ripe fruits are taken for the next stage of processing, namely pulping. Pulping is carried out carefully to avoid cuts and is carried out on the same day of picking to avoid fermentation before pulping and also to avoid the development of brown beans or foxy beans, which would lower the quality of coffee.

On most farms in India, natural fermentation is carries out. The effective removal of mucilage is carefully monitored, as otherwise the mucilage, which is full of sugars, would provide a favorable medium for micro-organisms, resulting in an "onion" or "stinker" or "off-flavored" cup. The coffee is then soaked under water to improve its color, washed a number of times till "pebble clean" and then dried.

All Indian coffees are sun dried on tiled or concrete, rather than on mud barbecues. We find this to be more effective and less expensive compared to mechanical dryers used in many coffee producing countries. The beans are spread evenly and raked regularly. This ensures uniform drying and keeps the parchment covers from breaking. The Coffee Board advances funds to small farmers to construct tiled or concrete barbecues.

From the coffee farm, where the emphasis is to avoid pulpier cuts, to prevent the development of stinker or sour beans, and to ensure bluish-green color and clean white center cuts, we move on to the second stand of meaning, which is carried out at the curing factory, to meet the rigid export standards laid down for Indian coffee.

Processing at the curing factory to

meet the export standard

At the curing factory, the crucial factor of moisture content is checked on a moisture meter. If the coffee lot is found to contain moisture above the prescribed standard for India coffee, the farmer is penalized. The coffee is then dried once again at the curing factory and then subjected to the next stage of processing.

Moisture content in washed Indian Arabica and Robusta coffees is maintained at 10 to 10.5%, a narrow range when compared to world standards. Temperature and humidity of the coffee growing areas in India are not conductive to a long shelf life if the moisture content is permitted to be much higher. However, on account of this stringent standard for moisture content, there is a tendency for Indian coffee to get overdried, resulting in lifeless coffee beans.

There are 44 curing factories in India with many of them equipped with modern processing equipment to improve and preserve the quality of Indian coffee. At the curing factory, each grade of coffee is processed with care, to conform to the sorting and grading standards prescribed. Indian coffee is sold in the international market based on the size and defect count of the coffee beans. "Plantation" coffee - a name very exclusive to Indian washed Arabica - is sold in the international market as Plantation 'A' by its region of growth, via. Mysore, Coorg, Bababudan, or Niligiris or as Plantation 'B' or 'C'. The nomenclature of 'A', 'B' or 'C' denotes the size of the coffee beans and the defects that are permissible in the grade. The principal grades of Indian coffee do not permit any defective beans, which has been achieved by selective sorting by machines and by human hands.

Indian coffee is sold to the international market packed in jute bags, a recyclable environmentally friendly material.

Quality evaluation of Indian coffee

The coffee that is offered to the international market is coffee which has been subjected to stringent quality assessment. The visual evaluation of coffee centers around the important quality parameters of moisture content, color of the beans, size of the beans, aroma, presence or otherwise of foxy beans, green beans, bleached beans, etc. If the quality of the sample is found to be poor on visual evaluation, a quality feedback report is sent to the farmer, informing him of the causes for the poor quality of his coffee and listing the necessary preventive measures that should be taken by him for the future.

In India, the importance of "cupping" or "liquoring" has been well recognized. The coffee lots which are offered to the international trade are cupped and only those lots which are of good cup quality are offered for export sale. The Indian farmer is paid based on the cup quality of his coffee and this additional payment has provided the farmer an incentive to produce quality coffee. The cup quality feedback reports are also communicated to the farmer or the curing factory, as the case may be, so that necessary steps could be taken by them in the future to avoid quality defects.

Specialty coffee

Through quality control, Indian has now ventured into the sales of coffee beans obtained from distinct plant strains. Very recently, we have introduced a new plant strain "Cauvery" to the field, which, besides being disease resistant, yields coffee beans which have a unique and distinct flavor in the cup. The coffee of this plant strain is now being processed separately and released to the international market with distinct identity so that its unique flavor could cater to even the most discerning palate.

Being brought up well at home has emboldened Indian coffee to enter the exciting arena of specialty coffees. The Indian Monsooned Malabar and Basanally coffees, which are very well-known to the international market, have a neutral mellow flavor in the cup, are soft on the stomach, and yet give you that distinct taste of Malabar, a picturesque town on the West Coast of India.

The overwhelming response to this specialty coffee has given the impetus to venture yet again, into the preparation of a second specialty coffee, "Mysore Nuggets Extra Bold", a coffee with good body, good acidity and fine flavor, with a hint of spice, to remind you of its origin in India.

We are continuing our efforts to offer to the connoisseurs many more specialty coffees in the future with exotic preparations, being prepared out of washed Arabica and washed Robusta. Special attention is being bestowed on every aspect of quality so that coffee connoisseurs around the world can enjoy the superior and fine taste of India's aromatic coffees. After all, this is the hallmark of Indian coffee - rich traditions and a richer taste.
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Article Details
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Author:Menon, Sunalini N.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:Indian coffee planters seek a natural balance.
Next Article:Creating new markets for Indian tea & coffee.

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