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India Malabar Monsooned - Mr Higgins Recommends

Recreating and Reinventing...

We have now reached the stage when shops, offices, restaurants and services are beginning to face the challenge of restarting after lockdown. For many, this means recreating their businesses and reinventing the ways they function, because the threat of the virus is still there.

So, for this month's Mr Higgins Recommends, I would like to share a story of one of our best selling coffees that had to be recreated after being faced with challenges that threatened its very existence, India Malabar Monsooned.

Malabar is the name give to the coffee grown in the Kerala region of India situated on the southwestern 'Malabar' coast. Coffee from Malabar became famous in the coffee drinking world of Europe and The USA because of its rich very mellow flavour with a subtle hint of spice.

But in the late 1800’s, there was an outcry from coffee drinkers in Europe and The USA. The Malabar coffee didn’t taste the same. Gone was that special deep flavour they loved. Communications must have gone back and forth between the merchants and the producers. Why was the flavour different? Eventually they realised that the cause of the problem was the coming of the steam ships.

Formerly, the coffee had been exported in sailing ships made of wood. Sacks were packed tight into the hold. During the long sea voyage, which could take as much as six months or more. The sea air, monsoon winds, rain and contrasting temperatures brought about dramatic changes to the coffee. In appearance it changed from a bright green to a pale yellow. But what was more significant was the effect on the flavour. The natural acidity was much reduced, replaced instead by a deep smooth and slightly spicy flavour.

The steam ship had radically cut the journey time between export and delivery. But because it was better protected from the elements, the coffee no longer had the famous Malabar flavour.

The Malabar coffee producers came up with an answer. To reproduce the former natural effects of the journey, by a procedure called “Monsooning”.  Coffee is picked and then spread out in specially constructed open sided warehouses.

The beans are raked and turned regularly before being loosely packed in sacks and stacked. The open sided buildings allow the monsoon winds can blow through the coffee sacks. The beans are regularly repacked over the course of around 7 weeks until they have changed colour from green to yellow. Once the colour has changed, the beans cupped to ascertain that they have successfully developed the traditional flavours for which they are famous.

The problem was solved for the nineteenth century coffee lovers, who went back to enjoying their Malabar “ Monsooned”

The coffee that had to be reinvented and recreated, continues to delight coffee lovers around the world to this day.

With my very best wishes

Tony Higgins

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