There’s a lot that Annamalai or Anaaimalai (loosely translating to mean Elephant Hills) is known for – a diverse ecosystem and rare wildlife, picturesque locales and pristine natural beauty, rolling hills and glades and thick forests… and here’s the kicker. It’s also home to acres and acres of coffee plantations that yield a rich crop year after year.
At an elevation of about 2,695 metres and a heavy monsoon (annual rainfall varies from 2,000 mm to 5,000 mm in the area) these hills are an ideal home to grow great coffee. Fun fact: the region is home to some of the finest high grown Arabicas in the country, including the exotic Kents.
The Arabicas grown here, are greyish green in hue with nuanced and delicately balanced flavors. They are fragrant, aromatic and often coupled with a curious, but delicious, citrus essence. Amongst the best coffee estates in the region, one name that stands out is Valparai estate of Tata Coffee Limited. Valparai's Arabicas are known worldwide since 1897 for its sweet aroma and full body. Well balanced acidity with a hint of sweetness makes this one a very special brew.
But other varieties exist too. Here’s a quick glance to get you better acquainted:
There is for instance, the S.795 and Cauvery, both developed using the Kent’s Arabica coffee plant. Connoisseurs know that the S.795 is among the most popular and widely cultivated Arabica s in India – is a well-balanced brew with fresh and subtle notes of Mocha. As for Cauvery Coffee, also known as Catimor that is a hybrid descendent of Caturra (a natural mutant of the high quality Bourbon variety) and Hybrido-de-Timor – one will find that it has managed to inherit the superior qualitive attributes of the former and the tough resistance of the latter.
Yet another variety grown here is the Sln.9 or Selection 9 coffee plant – a fusion of Tafarikela (an Ethiopian Arabica collection) and the tough and resistant Hybrido-de-Timor. It boasts of all the superior cup quality traits of Tafarikela, and won the Fine Cup Award for best Arabica at the Flavour of India – Cupping Competition 2002 organised by Coffee Board of India.
Who knew coffee could be so much fun?