India is a truly unique country when it comes to coffee. Not only are they leading the world in shade-grown cultivation, they are also home to a process called monsooning. Monsoon Malabar is the name of a coffee that has went through a weathering process during the monsoon season months of May through September. It is a completely different flavor than other brews; lacking in acidity but making up for it in a deep, heavy body with notes of bakers chocolate, spices, and earthiness.
The story of how Monsoon Malabar came to be is just as unique as the coffee itself. Years ago, when coffee was transported in wooden ships from India to Scandinavian countries the beans were subjected to extreme humidity and heat over the months long voyage. Once the beans arrived at their destination they had turned a pale yellow color and had swollen up to nearly double their original size. Like all curious coffee connoisseurs, they decided to try the coffee to see how the weather had affected the flavor. To everyone’s surprise the coffee had nearly no acidity but the body left behind was delicious. During the 1930’s, when shipping vessels started to improve, the coffee was no longer subject to the extreme weather conditions it once was, and had also lost it’s uniqueness. Thus began the replicating of the monsooning process.
Modern day Monsooned Malabar is processed in open side warehouses in the town of Mangalore, which is located on the Malabar coast. During the monsoon season green coffee is spread out on the floor of the warehouses a few inches deep. The coffee is raked and turned over almost every hour of the day and jute fabric is hung over the windows to control the moisture. Some processing warehouses have even went as far as installing sprinkler systems and are able to measure and control the exact amount of moisture needed to keep their coffees consistent every season. After 3-4 months of weathering the beans are bagged and ready to be shipped off for roasting.
Since monsooning is such an intensive process, this coffee is as rare as it is unique. Monsoon Malabar only makes up about 96,000 of the 120,000,000 bags of coffee sold annually and is only produced in Mangalore. All of the coffee that undergoes this process comes from the farming region of Karnataka which is only a couple hours away from the warehouses. Because of the beans light acidity and heavy body it is often used as espresso or blended with brighter African coffees. Monsoon Malabar is a truly unique and funky flavored brew that should be tried by every coffee fan at least once.