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December 2011 No 1 - Monsooned Malabar

Early December Newsletter
J. Martinez & Company - Coffee Merchants
Early December Newsletter

Company Newsletter
December 1, 2011

Why is it called Monsooned Malabar?

Malabar Coast of IndiaIndia was the first place outside of Arabia to cultivate coffee, essentially breaking the monopoly that the Turks held in the coffee trade. The coffee is “monsooned” not just for the alliteration. The beans are kept in special warehouses where they are exposed to the moist monsoon air, causing them to swell. The effect on the taste is a distinct mellowing of the flavor and reduction in acidity. The beans also turn a distinctive golden color. The first “monsooned” coffee happened quite by accident deep in the holds of early sailing ships that were carrying the coffee to Europe. The coffee absorbed moisture and swelled. The flavor of this climatologically processed bean became popular in Europe and remains so.

The coffee is shade-grown and the trees are often inter-planted with peppers, spices and fruit, which may account for the exotic bit of spice that is detectable in the flavor.

Baba Budan, a revered Indian Sufi making the Hajj to Mecca, was the smuggler who managed to get seven viable coffee seeds, taped to his stomach, out of the port of Mocha in Yemen. He returned to plant the seeds in the Western Ghats, or Mysore Hills, which parallel the Malabar Coast, as the southwest coast of Indian was once known. There is a mountain, Bada Budangiri, and shrine dedicated to the famed Sufi.

This area of India was of interest to the Europeans as early as 1505, when the Portuguese settled Goa and coastal areas to capture the spice trade. The Dutch became interested in controlling the western Indian coast to protect their interests in Dutch Ceylon from Portuguese invasions. The lucrative pepper trade in Malabar was another attraction for the Dutch, though they never were able to monopolize trade in the spice. The Dutch colonized Malabar from 1663 to 1766 when routed by Hyder Ali of Mysore.

An interesting note is that Hyder Ali was the first to use iron-cased rockets in warfare, successfully deploying them against the British. These rockets could travel over 1,000 yards with a 1lb payload of gunpowder, much further than the non-iron European rockets. The British built on this Indian technology to produce the solid fuel Congreve rocket mentioned in the Star Spangled Banner.

Descendents of the trees that Baba Budan successfully transplanted to India ended up in Java, courtesy of the Dutch, spreading from there to the other parts of Dutch-controlled Indonesia: Sumatra, Sulawesi, Timor and Bali. The Dutch, who had already been trading coffee in the East in the 17th century (prior even to there being a market for the product in Europe) became the primary supplier of coffee to Europe in the 18th century. Amsterdam remained the center of the European coffee trade until the French overtook the Dutch in the 19th century.

Holiday Coffee Gifts

Coffee Gift Box with Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans We all struggle with finding just the right gift for friends, colleagues, and clients. Sometimes a pound of J. Martinez coffee, beautifully packaged in our distinctive green box, is spot on, especially for a coffee-loving recipient. Our coffee makes a great hostess gift - distinctive from the ubiquitous bottles of wine we give our hosts. You may not know, though, that on-line you can have multiple recipients for a single order, letting us do the delivery work for you!

But when you need something with a little more impact our gift boxes are the way to give coffee, and more. You can give a variety of coffee, four half or full pounds of coffee, or give two coffees and mix it with some praline pecans, chocolate covered coffee beans, chocolate truffles or fruit cake. Great coffee is a truly great gift to share for the holidays.