Coffee culture comes to India

We had to pass this piece from the Los Angeles Times along:

Although India has long been one of the world’s major coffee producers, the country’s name is practically synonymous with tea. For most of the last century, it was the world’s biggest tea-growing nation, renowned for its Darjeeling and Assam varieties, and it’s still among the top consumers, with roadside chai stalls a fixture in every throbbing city and distant hamlet.

Ask for a cup of joe in most of India, though, and you’ll get instant coffee crystals drowning in hot milk and sugar, or served over ice with even more sugar. So few Indians drink brewed coffee that virtually all its best crop is exported to countries such as Italy, where the beans are used in name-brand espresso blends and sold at a huge markup.

Now, however, a handful of Indian farmers and entrepreneurs are trying to hook some of their compatriots on coffee by selling gourmet, freshly roasted Indian beans to a burgeoning urban middle class.


The effort to build a domestic market for Indian-grown coffee is among the latest signs of this country’s economic expansion. It also represents a bid to lift farmers from the bottom of the supply chain and connect them with Indian consumers who have long viewed coffee as an exotic luxury item.

The shade-grown coffee bushes that spill across the gently sloping hillsides of southern India are, for most farmers, simply a cash crop, Ross said. He compared it to West African cocoa whose farmers have never tasted chocolate.

“A lot of farmers barely know they’re growing coffee,” said Ross, a 34-year-old former advertising man who launched his company in 2012. “To them it’s just another crop they sell to the West.”

Until recently, consumers in most of India couldn’t even buy homegrown coffee, at least not directly.

We certainly can attest to the lack of “real coffee.” I think the only place we had a good cup on our last trip was a Western-serving shop in Varanasi. It was a damn fine cup of coffee, though.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “Coffee culture comes to India”

  1. Here’s a nice essay on the history of Indian coffee.

    Several years ago Nespresso issued a limited edition pod, which they named Mysore. There was an extensive, beautifully produced photoessay on Mysore coffee culture posted on the Nespresso website. It has since been taken down, but apparently it can be accessed here via subscription:

    I didn’t have the opportunity to try the coffee, but that Nespresso presentation almost tipped me over the edge to spend a season in Lakshmipuram. Probably would have had more than my fill of these:

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