Coffee is a beloved beverage in India, a steaming cup a warm companion throughout the day. But how did this aromatic drink, originally from Africa, find its way to South India’s lush hills? The story goes back centuries and involves a touch of legend.

The Smuggler Saint and the Seven Seeds

Legend tells us of Baba Budan, a 17th-century Sufi saint who embarked on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Yemen, a center for coffee cultivation at the time, strictly guarded its coffee beans. But Baba Budan, enthralled by the energizing brew, smuggled seven precious beans back to India – tucked away in his beard, some accounts say! He planted these beans in the hills of Chikmagalur, Karnataka, in 1670, marking the birth of coffee cultivation in India. Today, these hills are called Baba Budangiri Hills, a testament to the saint’s role.

From Private Cultivation to Flourishing Plantations

While Baba Budan’s act sparked coffee’s journey in India, it was private Indian growers who nurtured its initial growth. The Dutch, who had a presence in India during the 17th century, are said to have contributed to its spread. However, the real boom came with the British Raj in the mid-19th century. The British established large-scale coffee plantations, particularly in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

The Rise of a Nation’s Favorite Beverage

Coffee cultivation under British rule also led to the unique “Monsoon Malabar” method. During long sea voyages to Europe, the beans were exposed to monsoon winds and humidity, giving them a distinctive bold flavor. This method continues to be a source of pride for Indian coffee.

A Legacy that Endures

Today, India is one of the world’s leading producers of coffee, with a rich tradition and diverse coffee culture. From the strong filter coffee of South India to the creamy cappuccinos of big cities, coffee is an integral part of Indian life.

So, the next time you raise a cup of Indian coffee, remember the legend of Baba Budan, the dedication of generations of coffee growers, and the unique journey that brought this delightful beverage to our shores.

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