Imagine sipping on your espresso and all of a sudden images of the Malabar Coast in India are coming up in your mind, the warmth and moist of the Monsoon wind is felt at the back of your neck and you immerse in the sensation as your palate is slowly coated with a thick and syrupy delicious substance registering a wide spectrum of flavours and aromas, ranging from musty tobacco to spicy clove, earthy notes and toasted almonds.
It happens to me every time I make coffee with Indian Monsoon Malabar beans. It is such a captivating experience I never really want it to end. This bean always tells me a story, takes me to far away places, challenges my palate and reminds me that mediocre coffee isn't real coffee. It opens my eyes to see how divine coffee experiences are within my reach. Monsoon Malabar can transcend our perception of coffee from an everyday tasty and energy boosting liquid to an exotic and unique vehicle that takes us beyond the here and now.
Monsoon Malabar's origins date back to the times of the British Raj, when raw coffee beans were transported on wooden ships from India to Europe, during the monsoon months. As it took almost six months to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, the coffee beans, exposed to constant humid conditions, underwent changes in size, texture, and appearance. This resulted in rich, heavy and intense flavour profile. With modernization, better transportation has reduced exposure to humidity, yet European consumers noticed that the coffee beans now arriving, lacked the depth and character of the coffee beans of past days.
In order to re-create the same complex characteristics, it was found that similar ambient conditions can be replicated along the Indian South Coast during the monsoon months. This is how the process of 'monsooning' was born, and this is what it entails:
The coffee cherries are selected carefully, picked, bagged and transported from various regions in India to the Malabar Coast. Over there in warehouses, it is placed on raised flooring to allow good air circulation. When the Monsoon season starts in June, doors of the warehouse are open and the beans begin a steady exposure to moist and the salty coastal air, remaining like that from 3-6 months. While in process, the beans are carefully monitored as they swell and change color from green to pale yellow. The monsooning process involves careful handling, repeated spreading, ranking and turning around in regular intervals. This well controlled process results in that unique, consistent and high quality bean that is very different to the norm.
We use in Di Bartoli Arabica Monsoon, sourced from a reliable source and of high grade. Past practice of dumping bad beans onto those patios to be camouflaged as 'Monsooned' beans has made it important to ensure this beans is sourced through the right channels. Its special processing makes the bean also behaving in a special way in our espresso machines. If well extracted, expect monstrous crema in the cup. It is thick you can almost eat it with a spoon. But if prepared while too young (1-14 days from roasting), expect the coffee to be very gassy, unstable and the flavour can range from muddy to flat and dry. Rest your Monsoon Malabar bags of beans at least 2 weeks from roast and then indulge completely in the ritual, allowing your mind to be taken to far away shores.
© 2021 Ofra Ronen