Coffee particularly the famous South Indian filter coffee, has been an integral part of India’s cultural fabric for over four centuries. The history of coffee is not only deep-rooted but also associated with the region because it is not native to India. To understand the history of coffee in Coorg it’s crucial to know how coffee was introduced in India.
Coffee which is native to Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia), was monopolized by the Arabs during the medieval era. They strictly controlled the trade, exporting only roasted coffee to prevent coffee cultivation in other parts of the world. However, an intriguing twist of fate led to the introduction of coffee to India.
In 1600 AD, a Sufi saint named Baba Budan smuggled seven coffee seeds tied to his waist into India. This audacious act marked the beginning of India’s tryst with coffee. The Budan Giri mountain range in Karnataka bears his name, honoring the pilgrim who brought this cherished beverage to our shores.
While Baba Budan introduced coffee to India, it was the Arab traders who established coffee plantations in Sri Lanka even before the Dutch invasion in 1665. Edward Terry, an Englishman, wrote about the Mughals brewing coffee as early as 1616 AD.
However, it was during the 19th century that the British played a significant role in commercial coffee cultivation on a large scale. The regions of Coorg in Karnataka and Wayanad in Kerala became prominent coffee-growing areas.
Initially, coffee was exported to Europe and consumed as a luxury item by the upper class and castes. However, it took some time for coffee to be embraced by the Indian population. Many saw it as a symbol of Western modernity and were wary of adopting it. Interestingly, one follower from the Madras province even wrote to Mahatma Gandhi, expressing concerns about coffee addiction hindering women from joining the non-cooperation movement.
By the 20th century, coffee had been entirely appropriated by the Tamil Brahmins, who made it a marker of the high class. Tea, being brewed in water, became the preferred beverage of the working class, while coffee, brewed in milk, remained an expensive item, reserved for the elites. This led to the establishment of coffee hostels in the 1920s, predominantly owned by Brahmins in the Madras province, where segregation was practiced, with separate sections for Brahmins and “Shudras.”
Discover the Vibrant History of Coffee Plantation in Coorg
Coorg which is located in the western ghats of Karnataka is known as the coffee heaven of India. It has a long and illustrious history intertwined with the cultivation and production of coffee.
Coffee first found its way to Coorg in the early 19th century through the efforts of British colonialists.
The captivating tale tells of a British officer named Captain Scott, who recognized the region’s favorable climate and soil conditions for coffee cultivation. He introduced coffee plants from Yemen, which thrived in the region’s mist-laden hills, transforming Coorg into a coffee paradise.
Coorg’s coffee plantations grew steadily over the years, attracting not only British settlers but also local Kodava landlords who embraced coffee cultivation. The region’s abundant rainfall, cool climate, and elevation ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 feet provided an ideal environment for Arabica coffee to flourish. Plantations spread across the undulating hills, creating a breathtaking landscape that became synonymous with Coorg.
Unveiling the Influence of Kodava Landlords in Coorg’s Coffee History
One of the remarkable aspects of Coorg’s coffee history is the active involvement of the indigenous Kodava community. The Kodavas, known for their agrarian expertise, quickly adopted coffee cultivation as a lucrative alternative to traditional crops. Many Kodava landlords turned their ancestral lands into coffee estates, playing a pivotal role in the development of the coffee industry in Coorg. Their dedication, knowledge, and hard work contributed to the region’s success as a coffee-producing hub.
In Coorg, coffee became more than just a crop; it became a way of life. Coffee estates became an integral part of the Kodava culture and heritage. Families would gather to harvest coffee cherries during the season, engaging in communal activities that fostered a sense of unity and togetherness. The aroma of freshly roasted coffee wafting through the air became an inseparable part of the Coorg experience.
The legacy of coffee in Coorg is not limited to its economic significance but also its impact on the region’s social fabric. The coffee estates provided employment opportunities for local communities, enhancing their livelihoods and contributing to the overall development of the region. Moreover, the presence of coffee estates played a vital role in preserving Coorg’s biodiversity by conserving the surrounding forests and creating a habitat for various flora and fauna.
In recent years, Coorg’s coffee heritage has become a major attraction for tourists. Coffee plantations have opened their doors to visitors, offering guided tours that provide insights into the coffee-making process, from harvesting and processing to brewing the perfect cup. Travelers can immerse themselves in the captivating landscapes, interact with local farmers, and savor the authentic flavors of Coorg’s aromatic coffee.
Coorg’s history with coffee is a testament to the resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, and love for the land exhibited by the people of this region. The journey from the introduction of coffee by British colonizers to its integration into the local culture and economy has left an indelible mark on Coorg’s identity.
Coffee may not have originated in India, but its journey and subsequent integration into the country’s cultural tapestry are truly remarkable. From the daring act of smuggling seeds to the evolution of coffee as a symbol of class, this beverage has undergone a transformation that reflects the social dynamics of India’s past.
Coorg’s coffee continues to hold a special place in the hearts and cups of people across the region, reminding us of the rich history and cultural significance attached to this beloved drink. As you sip a cup of Coorg coffee, take a moment to appreciate the rich history and the countless hands that have contributed to the delightful brew in your hands.
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