A new book traces the journey of coffee in India from its serendipitous introduction to the present

Coffee is primarily grown in the three southern Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, followed by Andhra Pradesh and the present-day states of Telangana and Odisha. Most coffee plantations thrive in the foothills of the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s most vital biodiversity hotspots. Nearly 65% of the total coffee production comes from Karnataka, 18% from Kerala, approximately 15% from Tamil Nadu, and 2% from Andhra Pradesh.

It is estimated that India has more than 2,100,000 coffee farmers. The majority of them are small farmers with roughly 2 hectares of land. During the 2016-17 agricultural year, India produced 55 million bags of coffee.
The quantity of tea consumed in India exceeds that of coffee. In the southern regions, however, coffee has long been consumed in the morning, afternoon, and evening as a mental stimulant for college students and an elixir for all ages. I cannot conceive of my growing-up years without it. My mother would pour each of us children three-fourths of a steel tumbler of jaggery-sweetened coffee every morning after breakfast, and half a steel tumbler with the evening snack.

Coffee consumption was unrestricted in college until dozens of large aluminum kettles were emptied from the canteen. When finances allowed, we drank coffee in small cafes where the price ranged from 35 to 50 paise per cup.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, coffee consumption in India was still a Western custom. There have been repeated accusations throughout history that coffee is a drink associated with evil and the devil; it is puzzling that coffee has maintained its unique reputation despite being repeatedly accused.

In the early years of coffee cultivation in India, the British were the primary consumers. All types of people were prejudiced against coffee, but those who could not stomach its strength and those who frowned upon the camaraderie among coffee drinkers and their ability to withstand long hours of heated argument were the most prejudiced.

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