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Coffee berries grown in the shaded regions of the Western Ghats

The alluring aroma of roasted coffee powder blending with milk or hot water has the remarkable ability to stop anyone in their tracks just to continue inhaling the fragrance. Every restaurant, eatery, and food stall serves coffee these days. It started out as a mysterious beverage that could increase concentration and productivity and has slowly grown into a luxury drink in all the different forms it is available today.

According to an Ethiopian legend, coffee was discovered by a goatherd who noticed that a few of his goats refused to sleep at night after consuming certain berries. He asked the monks in a nearby monastery to find out what these berries were. One of the monks tasted the berries himself and found that he could stay awake for a longer time. Since then, coffee has been used as a stimulant. Its origins were traced back to Arabia.

Various stages of roasted coffee beans Photo by Nousnou Iwasaki on Unsplashunsplash

Coffee was exported to the rest of the world from Arabia in its roasted form and the seed itself was kept a secret. There were intensive checks at the borders for those who visited, to prevent the country's secret from being let out. In the 17th century, one rather courageous Sufi saint from India, Baba Budan, was so taken up with this miraculous drink that he decided to smuggle it back home. He hid the raw green beans in his beard, and being a saint on pilgrimage, he was not checked as thoroughly. He circumvented most of the rigorous checkpoints and brought seven coffee seeds to India. These he planted in the hills situated to the north of Chikmagalur, in Karnataka, which are named after him as Baba Budan Giri (Baba Budan Hillls).

Coffee plantation in Coorg, Karnataka Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia

The coffee plants grew well in the shaded region of the Western Ghats and spread quickly to the extent that the entire undergrowth of the Chikmagalur hills is filled with coffee plants. The weather here is damp and cool, which gives the coffee a unique flavor that is preferred to the coffee grown in sunlight.

The Chikmagalur hill station is located on some of the highest peaks of South India, some of them reaching up to more than 1,000 m above sea level. Karnataka is responsible for 65 percent of India's coffee export, and most of it is from the Baba Budan Giri hills. Arabica and Robusta species are grown here, which are most suited to the climate.

Keywords: Coffee, Karnataka, Chikmagalur, Baba Budan, Arabia


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