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Why does Starbucks Take Coffee from Coorg?

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Starbucks, the global café chain had partnered with Tata Coffee to serve coffee from their 3 crore, 375-tonne-a-year roastery at Kushalnagar in Coorg. The Americans who survive on Starbucks got a chance to taste a single-origin coffee from India”s Coorg region for the first time on July 26, 2015.

The coffee is, quite inevitably, cultivated from the largest Arabica cultivation (about 394 hectares) in Coorg district, from the Nullore estate under the ownership of Tata Coffee Limited, close to Madikeri. The Arabica coffee seeds are cultivated under a two-tier shade system, which is under local and fruit-bearing trees. The shade is managed with discretion, which in turn, helps the coffee bean mature gradually. Moreover, it also absorbs the natural “organoleptic” features within, which helps in giving it the final taste and aroma. Coorg, according to cultivators, is deemed to have perfect climatic conditions and soil which is perfectly suitable for coffee cultivation.

Andrew Linnemann, the Vice President, global coffee quality and engagement at Starbucks Coffee Company states that, “When we cupped the Tata Nullore Estates coffee we noticed this coffee was different from other Indian coffees. The flavour of this rare coffee exemplified the types of unusual coffees we want to deliver under our Starbucks Reserve Programme. Each coffee is one-of-a-kind — sourced from small coffee-growing regions in Latin America, Africa and Asia, Pacific Islands. All Starbucks Reserve coffees are roasted with care, at our Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle, to bring out their peak flavour expression.” The Starbucks Reserve program is an active series of testing and deploying rarest and most exotic coffees—unique, small-lot coffees that the organization delivers, roasting them in Seattle.

Sanjiv Sarin, Managing Director and CEO, Tata Coffee Ltd. States that “Nullore Estate coffee was a microlot. We have been working on premium differentiated coffees for some months now and set up a process to identify potential blocks in our estates whose coffees will qualify. Nullore passed our assessment. A small batch of carefully-cultivated coffee was isolated from the regular farm produce, handpicked and sun dried. Producing quality microlots is a meticulous and tedious process.” Microlots are deemed to be the “cream of the crop” from an estate and quite inevitably, it comes with a unique taste and a tale behind it. They are generally sold in small quantities, preferable only a few kilos. Hence, they are costlier.

Additionally, it is also technology-driven which uses light-sensitive spectrometers to make sure that the coffee beans grow slowly but consistently. The shade required also indicates that there is a natural mulching from the leaves that shed onto the ground, which in turn also contributes in avoiding the use of strong fertilizers and pesticides. Implementation of sustainable cultivation practices and an endeavour to keep the ecological balance in check are also kept in the emphasis. The Nullore Estate coffee was available at Seattle tasting room was only for a limited period.

In 2013 held the inception of the first Indian coffee to be available through Starbucks, to celebrate the first anniversary of Tata-Starbucks in the Indian market. Starbucks introduced a special single-origin coffee from India called “India Estates Blend”, which was a tribute to its customers, partners, coffee producer, roasters and all other parties involved. However, it was sourced, roasted, packaged and sold in India. Delineating the distinction between a blend and single-origin coffee, Sarin, the MD and Co-Founder of Tata Coffee Ltd. Elucidates how a coffee blend is a concoction of coffees from different places of origin that when put together, it gives rise to a creation of experience or profile flavour that does not exist by itself.

“A single-origin coffee comes from one, geographic place (country, region, town, community, estate, mill or farm). This gets to a coffee”s very specific provenance. They represent a “taste of place”, states Sarin.

Speciality of Coorg Coffee

Coorg is also famously nick-named as the “Coffee Cup of India”. The mountainous region of Coorg is a strong reminiscent with a perfect blend of the fragrance of fine Arabica and Robusta; which are the types of coffee available. This mainland of Indian coffee is known for its exclusive monsoon-fed coffee which is mostly cultivated in the shades of enormous Rose Wood, Wild Fig and Jack Fruit trees. The region is not only suitable for cultivating coffee but it also promotes distinct ecosystem for it. Moreover, it is also a home for great birds and animals like Great Indian Pied Hornbill and Giant Malabar squirrels, which are inevitably attracted by the fruit-full trees with rare of a kind flavors and aroma. Every year in February, the region is loaded with aroma of snow white coffee blossoms, which indicates the beginning of the coffee season and by the end of November, an amazing sight of red ripe coffee cherries are visible.

Major Portions of Coffee Holdings in Coorg.

In the beginning of 1940, the growing of coffee was not that of an elbow greasing for the cultivators, and they didn”t look forward to any aid from the government or a favourable price to be fixed at other people”s expense. Coffee was hence freely exported to other countries. However, in the age of today, coffee is really not bringing fair deals for the cultivators and the workers employed in this area. Major portion of the coffee holdings based in Coorg are managed by small cultivators. Hence, they are subjected to face a lot of problems related to marketing and trading. These issues are considered to be seriously addressed as coffee has taken a place of utmost importance due to its potential for exports as well as the dependency of livelihood of large number of small and/or local farmers which accounts for nearly 98% of holdings.

Coffee market, on the global scale, is characterized by big spanking of roasters. And the exporters at the upper end of the value chain has very badly affected the primary producers with a meagre or no incentives at all for the sake of productive enhancement, upheaval and for participating in the niche market. Due to the high labor cost, the production was not maintained properly. Thus, strengthening the primary sector of coffee production requires immense support from the government and private sector. The support much include aspects like coming up with coffee certification, multi-sector partnerships for sustainable coffee value chains which should gain confidence of small and/or local farmers of India.

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