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A Brief History of Coffee In India | Baba Budan

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Coffee is an important ingredient in the day-to-day life of Indians. The smell of coffee is a wake-up call to millions of people across the country. While in some regions, coffee is more of a luxurious and occasional drink, in other regions, predominantly the southern part of the country, it is a mandatory tradition. But how did this relatively foreign drink make its way to India?

The First Drink.. err… Bite of Coffee 

The legend says that once in Caffea, Abyssinia (Ethiopia) watched his goats chew on a few red berries from a bush and get a little frisky. When he had it himself, the goatherd found the berries extremely bitter but also noticed how he felt more relaxed upon chewing the same. The berries later gained more prominence by the name of ‘Coffee’.

When an Arab Sheikh visited Abyssinia in the mid-fifteenth century, he took a few seeds back to his country, Yemen. Although the Arabs instantly fell for coffee, the religious leaders were not quite happy with it, and called it a ‘devil’s drink’. However, over time, the drink became synonymous with Arabia. 

Coffee in India

The Journey of Coffee

Smuggling The Bitter Seeds 

Chikmagalur is the Coffee powerhouse in India, which was the place where coffee was first brought from a foreign land. An Indian hermit by the name of Baba Budan smuggled a few coffee seeds from Mocha, Yemen, and planted the same in the hills of Chikmagalur. 

Coffee plants generally do not require any special conditions to grow, moist, warm and tropical climate helps the coffee grow well. Those who grew the coffee back then, kept most of it for their personal use while selling the surplus to the Arab merchants. The Arabs would trade gold or salt for the exchange. The Arabs in return would trade coffee with North India

Although there is not much known about the development of coffee post the famous smuggling. It was decades later in the 18th century when the British took coffee plantations seriously and commercialised the process of growing coffee in Southern India. 

Coffee and India

India is the sixth largest producer of coffee in the world. The Western ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage site, provide necessary thick canopies for the coffee plants to grow well. Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, are the major cultivators of Coffee in India. 

The state of Karnataka is the coffee capital of the country, as nearly 65% of the country’s total coffee production from this state.

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