A Pilgrim Smuggled Coffee Beans To India: The Intriguing History behind the Development of Coffee Culture

India’s first coffee house opened in Calcutta after the battle of Plassey in 1780

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Coffee beans, India
Introduction of coffee beans to India. Pixabay
  • Coffee was kept as an Arab monopoly in Ethiopia and was traded in roasted form
  • The beans were introduced on the Malabar coast by Arab traders
  • The coffee plantations developed in numerous amounts in south India and were soon hit by an illness

New Delhi, August 19, 2017: Indians adore their coffee and tea. Both drinks, however, are not indigenous to the country and foreigners introduced them to us. While British presented tea, coffee beans have an all the more intriguing story.

The coffee saga has an act of rebellion. In the seventeenth century, a Sufi saint named Baba Budan went to Mecca on a pilgrimage. Upon landing in Mecca, he discovered that coffee was found a century sooner in Ethiopia, was kept as an Arab monopoly and was just traded in roasted form. Budan chose to oppose this and sewed a few seeds into his robes. He was excluded from checking while on his return to India, as he was a saint. Upon his arrival in the nation, Budan planted seven seeds in 1670 in Chikmagalur.

ALSO READ: Indian researchers: Coffee won’t give extra heart beats

However, numerous food historians believe that Budan was not the first person to acquaint coffee beans to the subcontinent. In Hazel Colaco’s book ‘A Cache To Coffee’, she wrote that the coffee beans were introduced much earlier on the Malabar coast by Arab traders.

Edward Terry, a British man in Jahangir’s court, wrote in 1616, “Many of the people there (in India), who are strict in their religion, drink no wine at all; but they use a liquor, more wholesome than pleasant, they call coffee, made by a black seed boiled in water, which turns it almost into the same colour, but doth very little alter the taste of the water.” He noted that notwithstanding it helps to cleanse the blood, helps in digestion and to accelerate the spirits, mentioned topyaps.com website.

Soon, the trade of coffee beans started across the world with the race being led by Ottoman Empire. The plantations developed in numerous amounts in south India and were soon hit by an illness. “Coffee rust” started to affect the growth of the plant which prompted increasing imports from South America. By WWI, coffee acreage declined and cleared a path for research.

The Great Depression too halted its popularity which caused the British to advertise for boosting this beverage’s sale. Walter Thompson, the advertisers, recommended the companies to establish coffee shops in Indian cities, therefore creating the base of a great culture of coffee-drinking in high societies and major Indian cities.

A food historian named David Burton, in his book called ‘The Raj at the Table’ wrote, “India’s first coffee house opened in Calcutta after the battle of Plassey in 1780. Soon after, John Jackson and Cottrell Barrett opened the original Madras Coffee House, which was followed in 1792 by the Exchange Coffee Tavern at the Madras Fort.”

He wrote about how the proprietor of the latter enterprise of the latter said that he had decided to operate on the lines of London’s Lloyd’s, by keeping a record of the ships’ arrival as well as departure and offering European and Indian newspapers to his customers for reading. Other houses too offered free utilization of billiard tables, recouping their expenses by the high rate of 1 rupee for a one coffee dish.

Soon, a new, more-resistant, type of the seed known as s795 Arabica was developed, which changed the course of food history. Indian coffee developed quickly with advancement in irrigation and technology and Green Revolution.

Indian filter coffee was made famous by Indian Coffee Houses, operated by the Coffee Board of India, in the 1940s. In the 20th century, the Indian filter coffee migrated to Singapore and Malaysia with Indian Muslims where it is now well known as ‘Kopi tarik‘.

– prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter Hkaur1025