Coffee profile: Monsoon Malabar

“Rainclouds come floating in, not to muddy my days ahead, but to make me calm, happy and hopeful.”  ~Rajuda

Monsoon Malabar is unique in the coffee world. Nothing about it is ordinary or standard — from processing and appearance to taste and history. Dating back to the days of the British Raj, Monsoon Malabar coffee was first introduced to Europe by East India Company. Hailing from the Kerala Mountains on India’s Malabar coast, these fabulous ‘aged’ beans were distinct, flavorful, and an instant success. Much of the bean’s uniqueness came, uncharacteristically, from the transport.

Transportation in the 1800s was slow and the ships were open, leaving much of the cargo exposed to nature’s extremes. Crossing the waters in large, wooden vessels, it could easily take up to six-months to sail from India to Europe. Typically, coffee was harvested in the winter and shipped during monsoon season. During these six months, rough seas, porous containers, and high humidity neutralized the beans’ acidity and dramatically changed the taste, texture, and quality of the Kerala beans.

Over time, as the shipping containers and vessels were improved, the beans reached port unweathered, in their original state, and incited near-outrage among devoted European drinkers. These unweathered beans lacked the profound depth and character of those that had been weather-exposed. When weathered, the beans were large, inflated, yellow, and produced strong vanilla and spice notes. When preserved, they merely tasted like a wonderful, ordinary Indian coffee.

To satisfy loyal consumers, the processors recreated the weathering process on land by building massive, open warehouses. Green coffee from the Malabar coast is now stored in open-sided warehouses on the coastal belt of southwest India. The warehouses protect the delicate beans from harsh sun while allowing exposure to monsoon winds and rain. After 12-16 weeks of monsoon weather, the green beans emerge in their fully weathered state —  translucent, aged, bloated, and a bit yellow. When roasted, these weathered beans create a heavy-bodied, pungent brew with little acidity.

At Mills / QB, we buy only AA Malabar beans and roast them to a rich, full-city shade. Both the aroma and taste are powerful with pungent clover and toasted walnut undertones followed by a gentle vanilla close. This is definitely a love / hate coffee. We love it and highly recommend it to anyone who loves a rich, spicy brew! To purchase Monsoon Malabar, click here.

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