Our coffee hunter sets off for India. Not for tea but for coffee. Specialty coffee.
You think that India is synonym only to tea, or better said, chai.
Right, it produces coffee also. But wasn’t it the infamous Robusta that is often used in blends with a lower quality?
Yes and no.
India is famous for its teas, correct. It is currently the world’s fourth biggest Robusta producer, correct. However, it is also a home to many small-scale farmers who have been producing quality Arabica beans for some time now. As a result, even the Alliance for Coffee Excellence / Cup of Excellence has been paying attention. And for a good reason.
What is Gems of Araku?
Since 2009, the Naandi Foundation has been organizing the competition Gems of Araku in the picturesque Araku valley. During it, the world’s most renowned coffee aficionados and jurors of the Cup of Excellence programme cup and evaluate the best quality coffee produced in the region.
This year, the competition will take place between 7 and 12 March in Hyderabad and Araku. It will include cupping sessions and visits to some of Araku valley’s farms. Sherri Johns, former ACE coordinator, is Gems of Araku’s head judge and our own Jordan Dabov has received an invitation to be among the few international judges this year.
Coffee in the Araku Valley
Nestled in the Eastern Ghats of India, Araku Valley is in the state of Andra Pradesh. It is home to generations of indigenous communities who produce coffee, pepper, mango and guava. At the end of the 19th century, Englishmen brought there coffee for the first time. More than a decade ago, the largest social enterprise in India, Naandi Foundation, started operating in this region. Since then, they have implemented natural resource management techniques. This way they have helped farmers convert semi–wastelands into organic coffee plantations.
There are a number of coffee farmers in the Araku Valley. They have formed the collective Small Farmer Organic Cooperative Society (SAMTFMACS). Today, it includes 10,500 small farmers. Coffee in this region is selectively hand-picked and grown under shade by the farmers. This distinctive product combines top-quality Arabica flavour with a commitment to environmental sustainability and socio-economic empowerment. It is organic and child labour free coffee. Because of all these, it represents a new way of production and consumption in the region.