Monsooned Malabar Coffee

I wrote a blog about this coffee and its origins on the 5th January 2018 where I described it as a bit “Marmite”. Well, a few weeks ago I was over in London and visited a famous Indian restaurant called Dishoom which can be found at 4 Derry Street, Kensington, London.

It has a fabulous art-deco look and an amazing menu. However what fascinated me most was the coffee they had chosen to serve, namely Monsooned Malabar. Of course, I had to have one to see if they had stayed true to this very interesting taste profile. I need not have worried, the coffee roasters “Union” had stayed true to the nutty, earthy taste that I love and more importantly the restaurant had delivered.

It really demonstrates how much braver the food service industry could be when thinking about their coffee offer. Being a bit “out there” really does add interest whilst at the same time informing and educating the customer to consider being a bit more bold rather than defaulting to a “lazy Sunday” blend. You can read the original blog post below and purchase a bag from Cooper & Co using the highlighted link.

Monsooned Malabar coffee doesn’t have the “sex appeal” of the fully traceable, single estate / farm coffees that are so millennial but it does have longevity, and in many ways is probably a coffee classic. Never really in or out of fashion.

We receive the “green” coffee in the form of a near-white puffed up bean. It’s a challenge to roast but develops its own very distinctive nutty, earthy flavour, much prized by many of our customers.

The coffee has as you can imagine a bit of history. When it was originally shipped from India to Europe there was no Suez canal. This meant that ships had to travel all the way around the most southern tip of Africa before making the arduous journey back up to Europe. During this time unbeknown to the Europeans, the taste of the coffee was changed dramatically, the beans were bleached and swollen by the sea air, giving the coffee its unique flavour. However, when the Suez canal was built the journey time of the boats was reduced considerably and Europeans detected a change in the taste of this coffee.

Whereas well processed green coffee has a moisture content of 12% to 13%, Monsooned Malabar coffee is down around 10% which means that it feels a lot lighter and has a much paler look to the eye than other green coffees from other regions. This is what gives it its unique taste, as it roasts completely differently to other coffees.

The problem post-Suez was how to retrieve this flavour. The solution was a simple one and is now all carried out at origin. Once the coffee has been pulped and dried it is left to stand in sheds. The sides of the sheds are opened and moist monsoon winds circulate around the coffee making it swell in size and take on the famous mellowed and slightly musty flavour.

That all sounds pretty fantastic, but what do I think of the coffee. I compare it a bit like people's reaction to Marmite, you either love it or hate it.

Although only medium roasted its unique characteristics of great body and gentle acidity mean that it makes an excellent base for most espresso-based drinks. Think Parisian café, grand crème and fresh croissants.  

Photo credit: Dishroom Restaurant, Kensington.

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