INDIA Pearl Mountain (RFA) Natural
INDIA Pearl Mountain (RFA) Natural
Roaster’s Tasting Notes
Raw Cacao, Whole Spice, Orange Peel, Forest Berries, Hickory Smoke, Nougat, Velvety
Specialty coffee from India? A common reaction to customers perusing the retail shelves at our roastery in Notting Hill. India is generally known as a producer of Washed Robustas and of supplying the (in)famous Monsooned Malabar. However, India played a critical role in the historical chain of events which brought Arabica from Yemen to the rest of the world.
Typica, an Arabica varietal which forms the basis of many of the Arabicas grown outside Ethiopia and Yemen today, can directly trace its lineage back to Arabica seeds brought into India from Yemen by the pilgrim Baba Budan c.1670. The terroir along the Malabar Coast, in the south of India, provided a favourable setting and enabled coffee to successfully grow there. Between 1696 and 1699, Dutch colonialists successfully managed to propagate India-grown Arabica seeds on the Indonesian island of Java. In 1706, one of these Java-born plants was sent to the botanical gardens in Amsterdam, from which the modern Typica varietal was eventually derived. By 1719, the Dutch had begun sending this Typica seed to other territories, and by 1727, Arabica had already reached the north of Brazil. The rest of Arabica proliferation history then ensued.
Coming back to India, the importance of this origin as a major supplier of Arabica waned as other territories started taking precedence given the ease with which coffee could be grown there, beginning with South and Central America from around the 1750s and then East Africa from the 1850s onwards. For India, coffee-rust contributed to the decline in Arabica farming, with the focus then moving to tea, and then in post-colonial times, coffee-wise, to Robusta. However, the potential for growing Arabica in India always remained, and with the growth of Specialty coffee awareness, the opportunity for India to share its signature cup flavour profile can enjoy a new resurgence.
Ratnagiri or “Pearl Mountain” estate is situated at the top of a mountain range in the Western Ghats region of India, in a region known as Babubudangiri (named for the legend who effectively brought coffee to the world). The local Hindi name Ratnagiri translates to “Pearl Mountains” in reference to the dense silver oaks which tower over the estate and provide a natural shade canopy for coffee.
Ratnagiri has been in operation under the Patre family since 1920, being passed down from grandfather, to father to son. While initially the son, Ashok, continued with traditional farming practices, he has since spent many years travelling to origin countries, visiting well-known farms and taking from the best of their practices and incorporating it into his operation at Pearl Mountain.
As a result, agricultural maintenance is a top priority at Ratnagiri. Quarterly soil tests are carried out and organic corrections to soil are applied regularly. Ionic seawater and seaweed extract are applied to improve plant immunity and enhance sugar levels in the fruit, with Brix testing of coffee cherries carried out before harvesting. Another innovation is the introduction of the modern South American Arabica varietal Catuai to Indian soil (which contains both Typica and Bourbon genes in its make-up, ancestors of which were first brought over to India by Baba Budan 350 years ago!)
For this perception-altering Natural Catuai, Ashok and his dedicated team targeted 20-21 days drying in cherry on raised beds under 50% shade. The drying was finished on patios, sitting on top of shade nets to improve air flow. The cherry was then bagged into plastic liners and stored in cool repository areas out of heat and sunlight.
For all intents and purposes Ratnagiri Estate is an organic/biodynamic farm and also maintains official Rainforest Alliance Certification. The estate is a lush shaded environment with 3 stories of shade. It is home to over 48 recorded bird populations, monkeys, leopards, wild boar, tigers, mongoose and - on occasion - elephants. The rich biodiversity demands that Ashok and his family have an approach to farming which places ecology and harmony with the environment at the forefront. This is a world class farm, truly one of the leading in India and a great example of our importer Olam and the farmer working together to engineer excellence.
In the cup, this coffee is a superb example of a “modern” style Indian Arabica. Sweet, with a nougat like body and velvety mouthfeel, with flavour notes of raw cacao, whole spices like nutmeg and cinnamon bark, accompanied by exotic smoky notes and contrasted by distinctive orange peel and forest berry flavours, which together, make this a very moreish coffee indeed.
We are roasting this for both filter and espresso. Pearl Mountain would make a brilliant morning French Press or Aeropress and takes milk very well.
As a moka pot or espresso brew, this would make a fabulous alternative to the Brazil-style, and would definitely find favour with all those who enjoyed our Sumatran Mount Koerintji earlier in the year. In common with other coffees from Asia, such as those from Indonesia or Papua New Guinea, the finished beans for both roasting styles might look a bit darker than you would expect, but the coffee demands this approach in order to be considered developed, well-balanced, and to be able display its full spectrum of flavours.
Rainforest Alliance Certified.
Sourced by Olam Specialty Coffees.