Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monsooned coffee is proof that some times the usual way, is not the best way.

So how did this 'faulty' coffee become such a star?

In the 1800s, when Indian was under British colonial rule, coffee was shipped back to England on tall sailing ships.
The journey was long, rounding the southern cape of Africa, and during the journey the coffee was exposed to the elements of the ship and the monsoonal conditions.
The result was what was considered at first a fault in the coffee - the beans swelled, they changed colour and the flavours changed.
But the flavour was much sought after; a smoother, more pleasant taste, low in acidity, making a pleasant change for the palates used to beans from northern Africa and South America.
As shipping speeds improved, the monsooning process was lost, but the hunger for the tastes it produced did not.

So the farmers on the Western coast of India developed more sophisticated and controlled ways of replicating the monsooning process.
After the coffee berries are picked, they are sundried and sorted according to quality, before being stored for the monsoon season.
Monsooned coffee beans
note the larger than usual size and the pale, golden colour
Over a three to four month process (about June through to September) the beans are laid out on the floors of monsooning sheds which are open to the elements. The beans are continually raked over, spread out, and mixed as they absorb up to 50 per cent more moisture than other comparable beans. They swell and change colour to a pale, almost golden yellow, compared to the dark green of most other processed coffee beans.

Finally the beans are sorted again, to separate those which have monsooned perfectly, and those which have developed faults through this tricky process.

Because of the extra moisture, the resulting coffee is very low in acidity. The process itself gives unique flavours, with predominant tastes of chocolate, spice and nuts.
And all because the ships to market took so long to make the journey.

For us it raises the question, what other deviations from the mainstream can deliver superior results?