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The small, bustling town of Chikmagalur is located on the foothills of the second highest peak in Southern India and is known for many things. Mainly, the ancient temples of Belur and Halebid (which draw thousands of tourists every year), and the beautiful mountains and lush forests that attract hikers and campers. But more recently, it has become famous for the aromatic coffee grown on its mountains. A well-kept secret and enjoyed locally for many years, Indian coffee is now fast becoming the choice of blend among several coffee connoisseurs, roasters, and brewers in North America and all over the world.
The history of growing coffee in the district of Chikmagalur in Southern India is interesting and merits telling. It is said, that in the 17th century, a pilgrim making his way from Mocha, Yemen crossed India through the Mullayanagiri Hills and was taken back by the raw beauty of his surroundings – lush mountains, running streams, rich forests and seasonal monsoons that made everything greener. He planted 7 coffee beans on these mountains and started the first coffee farm on those hills. Through the next couple of centuries, British planters realized how well-suited the climate was for growing coffee and cultivated vast areas in the region for growing coffee. Fertile soils, high elevations, seasonal monsoons and pleasant temperature year round – all made for conditions necessary to grow excellent coffee.
Today, some of the finest Indian beans come from plantations located within this region.
Like so many coffee-growing families in the region, plantations have been handed down from father-to-son, mother-to-daughter – making most of the present growers, third and fourth generation. With such a rich history of growing coffee, these third and fourth generation growers have truly perfected their art while keeping up with technological advances at the same time. Investments are being made to import the latest curing machines from Italy and Brazil. The Coffee Board of India – once the regulatory institution for Indian coffee, today, offers marketing and other services to support the Indian coffee industry.