Indian Monsooned Malabar
This full-bodied coffee with a nutty, spicy aroma and very low acidity owes its soft earthiness to its exposure to the elements during May and June, as the Monsoon w...
Indian Monsooned Malabar
This full-bodied coffee with a nutty, spicy aroma and very low acidity owes its soft earthiness to its exposure to the elements during May and June, as the Monsoon winds sweep through the uplifted skirts of the Malabar warehouses. Not a trendy coffee these days but one that Atkinsons has been selling to regulars for as long as anyone can remember!
A Happy Accident of Logisitics
So, how did this rather unique process come about? There is a clue on the sack, which sports a glorious stencil of an old three-masted Clipper. Legend has it that in the early days of trading when ships were leaving the Western shores of India, from Malabar and Kerala, bound for the European ports of Tilbury, Antwerp or Hamburg, something remarkable happened to their cargo. They were laden with the same hessian or jute coffee sacks that are still familiar to us today. Before 1869 however, when the Suez Canal was opened, they had to sail right down the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope, then tack all the way back up the Atlantic.
Consequently they were at sea for months at a time and the cargo was lashed by so many storms that by the time it arrived at its destination it was drastically changed. Rather than reject an entire cargo Traders made up a brand-new category and described this coffee as Monsooned, thereby clutching victory from the jaws of financial disaster. This happy accident of logistics gave birth to a completely new process.
Pivoting with the March of Progress
So successful was this clever marketing ploy that hordes of coffee lovers fell in love with this new softer version of an aged Old Brown Java. So when the Suez Canal opened with a quicker route to market, it effectively cut out the trawl around Africa. This may have changed the state of the cargo again and maybe some ingenious Indians were busy creating their more controllable, less serendipitous method of Monsooning. One thing is for sure, by the time the first shipping containers were introduced in 1956 the beans on board were spending their journey in a much more controlled environment.
This coffee may not strictly be labelled 'Speciality'. It certainly scores low on the flavour wheel which is designed for coffees with a whole range of more fruity, floral notes. The lighter, shorter-chained volatile aromatics that have already flown the nest in Malabar. These days, however we are ticking another important speciality box, which is Traceability. We now source our Monsooned coffee specifically from Chickmalagur, a hillstation in the Western Ghats, traditionally one of the best producing regions.
So, we honour the past and respect the heritage of this unusual and intriguing member of the coffee pantheon. It's not to everyone's taste but, rather like Marmite, there will be those who choose this as their special tipple.