Market Reports

Winners of the Flavour of India

When the coffee world gathered in Dublin in June for the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s annual event, World of Coffee, the very best of the best in every category of the industry was on show. Not only were the world’s top baristas – who were gathered to compete in the coffee industry’s headline event, the World Barista Championship – joined by top roasters and coffee equipment manufacturers from around the world, the growers of the world’s finest coffees were also out in force. Among the initiatives designed to showcase some of the world’s best coffees was a cupping competition featuring the cream of India’s crop. Run by the Coffee Board of India (CBI), the Flavour of India cupping competition showcased the leading coffees produced on the subcontinent as determined by a panel of international judges in the final rounds of cupping, which took place during the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s annual event. The coffees that made it to Dublin to be judged by a panel of nine judges from all around the world were selected in India from a total of 232 initial entries that were submitted to the CBI in March. Among those entries were 142 samples of Arabica and 90 samples of Robusta. Over two rounds of evaluation, that number was whittled down to 39 samples in the following four categories: Arabica (washed/unwashed), Robusta (washed/unwashed), Specialty Arabica coffees, and Specialty Robusta Coffees. These samples comprised the best coffees from each of India’s coffee growing regions, plus an extra six samples each of both Robusta and Arabica in the speciality categories. “During cupping the international jury members gave very positive reviews about the coffees,” Aarti Gupta, Director of Finance at the CBI, tells Global Coffee Report. “The aim of the Board is to make the growers more conscious about quality, so that they go that extra mile to produce one of the best coffees in the world. It has been observed that the winning coffees are earning very high premiums in the international market.” The economic benefits from such exposure can be considerable for the coffee producers involved, but so too are the benefits the competition yields for the overall reputation of Indian coffee. This was evident at a cupping session held by the CBI during the World of Coffee. “Overall, the cupping of the various brands of Indian coffee was well received and appreciated by the attendees, who were also happy to meet the growers behind the branded coffee beans from India,” Gupta says. “They also applauded the changes that are taking place in the Indian coffee industry, with the quality of Indian coffee rising rapidly, with some unique taste notes, which could brighten the cup of coffee being served to them. The fact that the Indian coffee growers are striving hard to not only improve the quality of their produce, but also to offer a sustainable product to each and every coffee buyer and coffee consumer from different parts of the globe as per their requirements, were very much appreciated by all who attended the session.” The Winners: Best Robusta – Moganad Estate
First planted in 1883, Moganad Estate is managed by MSP Coffee, a fifth-generation coffee business owned by the MSP family. Moganad Estate is situated at an elevation of 1300 metres and with slopes facing south and south-west. Certified by both Rainforest Alliance and Utz, Moganad Estate produces around 70 tonnes of parchment every year. Thickly wooded with shade trees, the plantation is a haven for birds, insects and animals, namely bison. The average rainfall in the area is 1100 to 1300 millimetres, with about 70 to 80 rainy days per year. “The intense yet aromatic flavour in the coffee grown here is the result of the influence the surrounding shade trees have on the flavour of the coffee,” says the Director of MSP Coffee, Navin Mohan Rajes. Rajes tells GCR that the Estate’s sustainable practices are a huge part of its identity and something they aim to highlight as the business continues to grow. “We aim to maintain these standards and further introduce coffee-tourism and coffee awareness programs on the farm where tourists can stay and experience a coffee plantation first hand,” Rajes says. “Coffee enthusiasts can learn where exactly their morning brew comes from and appreciate all that culminates into their favourite cup of coffee.  We are also looking to expand into the retail sector and hope to launch our own brand of coffee at some stage in the near future.” Winning the Flavour of India, Rajes says, has given his team a boost in their efforts to produce excellent coffee. “It definitely encourages us to strive harder to keep up the high standards we maintain in order to achieve these awards,” he says. “Plans are mid way on upgrading our website and selling our award-winning coffee online.” Best Speciality Robusta – Harley Estate
An original British plantation with more than 150 years of history, the picturesque Harley Estate is situated in the Hassan district of Karnataka in the midst of the Western Ghats mountain range, surrounded by streams and waterfalls. As the fourth generation of his family to grow coffee in the region, DM Purnesh has a deep appreciation for the many different elements that go into achieving the perfect cup of coffee. “Well fostered coffee plantations produce coffee that makes for a best cup,” Purnesh tells GCR. “We take personal care right from choosing the certified seeds for our plantation, nurturing the plants with utmost care, hand picking the crop, and sun drying manually before being further processed.” The estate employs careful monitoring of its coffee throughout the various stages of processing before each batch is sent to their lab. “Each batch of coffee is tasted and tested by in-house qualified tasters and graders,” Purnesh says. With a track record of competing – and often winning – at the Flavour of India competition since 2003, Purnesh says that the award will help to distinguish his coffee on the world Robusta market. “This award gives us a boost to our sales and creates demand, being considered as premium coffee,” he says. “We are definitely focusing more to produce high quality of coffee all the time since these recognitions have helped us to get a better price and a better reputation in the international market.” Purnesh plans to further improve Harley Estate’s coffee quality with proper technology being used for sustainable growth. “We aim to market our micro lots coffee through online auction to the world specialty coffee market,” he says. Best Arabica – Badnekhan Estate
Located in the famous Indian coffee producing region of Chikmagalur in the country’s south, Badnekhan Estate is a coffee plantation owned by Devon Plantations & Industries. The Badnekhan Estate plantation sits in the foothills of the Merthi Mountain, the second tallest peak in Chikmagalur, with an average elevation of 1250 metres. The altitude of the Badnekhan Estate ranges from 1150 metres to 1300 metres above sea level, and temperatures vary between 12°C to 27°C. The family that runs the plantation has been managing coffee, tea, and rubber plantations since 1936. They bought Badnekhan Estate in 1946, and are now into their third generation managing the farm. The predominant strain of Arabica coffee found at Badnekhan is Selection 795, but it was Selection Nine that won the Flavour of India Fine Cup Award.
CEO of Badnekhan’s parent company, Roshin Varghese, tells GCR the uniqueness of Badnekhan Estate’s coffee is its nuances, which are evident in the cup profile. “The special geographic micro climate gives the bean a unique flavour,” Varghese explains. “The cool temperatures provide a slow growth cycle which prolongs bean development and imbibes it with more complex, intense flavours.” The Badnekhan Estate is no stranger to receiving plaudits for its coffee. In fact, this is the fifth time that Badnekhan Estate has won at the Flavour of India Awards. “These awards have put us on the coffee map and has introduced us to discerning coffee buyers from around the world,” Varghese says. “It has enhanced the great care we take in the delicate process of production and reinforces our focus on quality year after year.” Best Speciality Arabica – Seethargundu Estate
Owned by organic coffee producer Poabs, the Seethargundu Estate is located in the Nelliyampathy Hills in Kerala state, South India. Located 3000 to 4200 metres above sea level, coffees grown at the Poabs Seethargundu Estate are entirely organically cultivated using biodynamic agricultural practices. More demanding than organic certification, biodynamic farming practices seek to ensure the long-term health of the entire ecosystem where the farming takes place. While organic farming practices are becoming more common in the coffee industry, Poabs is one of just two farms in the world certified as biodynamic by the Demeter certifying body. Established 125 years ago, the Seethargundu Estate had a chequered history, and was in a derelict condition when the Poabs Group took over the estate in 1989. In the years since, the estate has undergone a remarkable transformation. Conversion to biodynamic agriculture started in 2000, and within three years of regeneration, the estate was thriving, Poabs’ Director, Thomas Jacob tells GCR. “Getting to this point obviously required a lot of commitment, in terms of finance and willpower,” Jacob says. “The management first worked on the infrastructure, such as putting in check dams, and enhanced the social welfare for the workers who had been neglected earlier.” Efforts went into a major tree-planting program for shade and shelterbelts, aimed at improving the biodiversity on the estate. Over the past 25 years, some 70,000 additional trees have been planted on the estate, including 35 new species, to improve the forest cover. “Compared to conventional farming, biodynamic agriculture requires practically double the effort,” Jacob says. “Notably, there was a significant drop in the incidence of pest and disease attacks ever since conversion to biodynamic processes.” The hard work over the years has clearly paid off, as the awards in cupping competitions are ample testimony to the consistent quality of the specialty coffees, finding favour among discerning buyers in Europe, North America, and Japan. “As far as the future is concerned, we have already started expanding our organic cultivation to our other conventional estates,” Jacob says. “We aim to do our best to produce sustainable high quality tea and coffee through eco-friendly methods.” GCR

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