Discovering the Coffee Culture in Kerala, India

We know Kerala for its lush reserves and tranquil backwaters. Tourists everywhere are going out of their way to see these attractions, be it fauna or wildlife, which is found in abundance wherever you turn your head.

However, did you know that coffee is also a major thing in Kerala? Even as a coffee lover, you may not have known that different Arabica and Robusta varieties are actually grown there. Sure, while most people in Kerala do start their day with tea, more and more individuals (especially youngsters) are starting their day with coffee. They’ve developed the taste, and we can’t actually blame them for that. The drink they commonly call “kaapi” can enrich their senses and leave them craving for more.

Most holidaymakers go out of their way every year to visit the coffee plantations in Kerala, only to catch a whiff of what will one day become the finest roasts that humankind ever got their hands on. And that is only logical, considering the beauty of the region.

Boathouse @ Kumarakom, Kerala by Sarath Kuchi

Kerala – The Land of Supreme Coffee

Also known as Keralam, Kerala is a state found in South India, more precisely on the Malabar Coast. Spreading over 38,863 square meters, Kerala is neighbored by the Lakshadweep Sea in the west and the Tamil Nadu in the south and east. Being a prominent spice exporter, it’s no wonder that Kerala would one day become big on coffee culture as well.

Every coffee estate in the region of Kerala is managed by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation. That has been the case ever since 1976. The areas that were not fit to cultivate cardamom were thus turned exclusively into coffee plantations. These plantations are present in vast areas in the Kallumala, Pamba, Wayanad, and Cheeyambam district of Kerala.

Kerala provides the most famous coffee production in the whole nation, and you can find all kinds of varieties there. However, the type they are most famous for is Robusta, which shares over 90% of Kerala’s coffee production. The reason behind that is that Robusta coffee doesn’t require much effort, and it can be produced with the least pesticide problems.

The Robusta coffee plant can live up to 80 years, and no matter when it’s harvested, it will prove to become a very exciting drink for anyone having it.

Kerala Map

Coffee Varieties in Kerala

Kerala grows several varieties of coffee. However, the most important ones are Arabica and Robusta. These two are usually grown in the Kerala state and are always the ones finding their way into the limelight.

Arabica Coffee

Arabica coffee is found under many names; it can be “mountain coffee,” it can be “coffee shrub of Arabia” or it can be simply “Arabic coffee.” Originating from Ethiopia’s southern highlands, these coffee beans are produced in the mountainous regions of Kerala, amongst many other types of coffee beans.

Arabica coffee is, was, and will be the primary coffee species that is abundantly cultivated in both Arabian and Indian areas. For over 1,000 years, that has been the primary practice.

Robusta Coffee

Originating from the central and western sub-Saharan Africa, Robusta coffee is fairly common since it doesn’t require a great deal of extra work. Part of the Rubiaceae flower plant family, it has gained a lot of popularity and it has been exported to various plantations around the world.

The Kerala Filter Kaapi (Coffee)

Filter coffee in South India is meant for those who like their coffee to be strong. While most people go for instant coffee in this country, more and more Kerala people tend to prefer this brewing method since it provides savory coffee.

If you asked most of the citizens in Kerala, they would also tell you that tasty coffee means coffee that has been brewed using Nescafe Coffee or Bru Instant Coffee Powder. However, for it to taste as delicious as possible, you need to brew it as efficiently as possible.

Kerala people also like to add some roasted chicory in their coffee powder (20-30% of the total amount). While it may slightly increase the brewing time, it will make the coffee more aromatic. If you choose to drink it without milk, this decoction will be even stronger than an espresso.

Filter Kaapi being a popular beverage in Kerala, is still served in traditional steel utensils only – the steel glass “tumbler” holds the coffee and the steel bowl is used to cool the coffee down in case you are in a hurry! The expanded space causes evaporation and hence faster cooling.

Filter Coffee by Santosh Wadghule

For Tea (Chai) Lovers

If there’s anything that India is known for, it’s the fact that caffeine is everywhere: no matter if you are more inclined to enjoy a cup of tea than a cup of coffee, you have many options that are as good as coffee.

One particular brew that is popular in Kerala is the Masala Chai. If you want to experience their taste, here are the ingredients that you may want to gather. This will work for two cups of tea:

  • Two pods of lightly crushed cardamom
  • Peeled ginger (crushed)
  • One cinnamon stick
  • Two tablespoon of black loose tea (you may choose your favorite brand)
  • Two cloves
  • One cup of whole milk
  • One cup of water
  • Sugar (depending on your taste)

Once you have gathered these ingredients, this is how you brew them:

  1. Put the stove on medium heat and combine the water and milk in a saucepan.
  2. Wait for the water to get warm, add the spices and bring it to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and add the loose tea, allowing it to simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Strain and discard the spices and tea dust, adding sugar according to your taste.

Many cafes in Kerala have their particular brewing method, but the ones mentioned above are usually always found in the menu.

Some Popular Cafes in Kerala

Kerala is packed with cafes regardless of where you go (just what you’d expect from a coffee-loving state). While there may be no Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee shops in the region, you still have a great number of places where you can order a good traditional cup of coffee.

#1 Kashi Art Café & Gallery

Found in the district of Kochi on Burgher Street, many people say that this is the best place where you can get breakfast in Kerala. Packed with organic food and traditional Indian cuisine, there’s no better place where you can get a decent cup of traditional Kerala tea or coffee. It’s an amazing art gallery too!

#2 Teapot Café

Located in Kochi, Teapot Café is a quirky place that provides great snacks and lunches in addition to traditional tea and coffee. They serve brews that are traditional to the Kerala regions, so if you want a taste of the Kerala culture, this might be the place.

#3 Loafer’s Corner Café

Loafer’s Corner is another great spot where you can taste a great cake along with a nice cup of traditional Kerala coffee. Plus, it’s vegan-friendly, and it has a very pleasant ambient for a relaxing evening.

The coffee culture is continuously changing in Kerala, and brews are also modifying to keep up with the time and taste. The coffee that you tasted last year in Kerala might taste differently in the next five years.

International Coffee Outlets

Sure, you may love traditional Kerala coffee, but what if you miss you’re the taste of coffee from home? Here are some international coffee outlets in Kerala that serve both cultural and international brews:

#1 Costa Coffee

Currently, Kerala has three outlets in Kerala, one of them being inside of Lulu Mall, Kochi. You can either drink the coffee there or opt for a takeaway; it’s your choice.

#2 Café Coffee Day

While this chain is originally Indian, it has spread out all over the world. It’s a great place for you to have a good brew of coffee.

#3 McDonald’s

The McDonalds dishes in Kerala are not exactly like traditional joints – but more on the Indian side. You can find great brews of Indian origin as well as the traditional ones.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the coffee culture in Kerala is strong. No matter where you go, you will be able to find a good cup of high-quality coffee. If you were in Kerala, which would be the first place you’d visit to experience their coffee addiction culture?

Resources

Kashi Art Cafe – Burgher Street, Fort Cochin – 682001, India

Loafer’s Corner Cafe – Facebook page. Princess Street – Fort Cochin 682001

Teaport Cafe – Facebook page.

Dennies John

Dennies John

Dennies John is the editor of DrippedCoffee who is an espresso fanatic and love to share what he know about this field. He can read coffee like the back of his hand and brew it like it is in coffee shops. When he is not brewing coffee, you can see him cycling or be watching his favorite TV shows.
Dennies John

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