Araku Coffee: Aromatic coffee cultivated sustainably
Araku valley coffee has gained immensely popularity after bagging the Geographical Indication (G.I) tag in 2019. The origins of the Araku valley coffee dates back to 1898 and after over 120 years, this coffee is known not just for its beautiful aroma but also for the sustainable cultivation practices adopted by the tribals in the region.
Photo Source: Arakucoffee.in
“If it wasn’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”
– David Letterman
India is a country of coffee lovers where many of us prefer beginning our day with a cup of strong brew. Coffee variety of Coorg, Karnataka, Palani Hills, Tamil Nadu & Wayanad, Kerala are well known across the country and have been the favourite of Indian coffee lovers for several decades. But this is the story of Araku valley Arabica coffee that gained Geographical Indication (G.I) tag in 2019 and its popularity is now spreading like wild fire.
Geographical location of Araku Coffee
Located in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, the local tribal population of Araku Valley have been engaged in coffee cultivation for over a century. The coffee variety, however, came into the limelight only a decade or two ago. The valley is situated in Eastern Ghats mountain range at about 1,200 feet above sea level. The location is also home to a coffee museum which narrates the journey of coffee plantation in the region.
In 1898, a British man in the coastal part of East Godhavari in Andhra Pradesh saw the potential of introducing coffee cultivation in the region. Over five decades later, Andhra Pradesh Forest Department began developing coffee plantation in the whole of Araku valley. It is also interesting to note that it is organic and cultivated by Adivasi farmers in 10 mandals of the region.
Method of Cultivation
The smell and aroma of this distinct coffee is enchanting and so is the method of its cultivation. The coffee beans in this region are grown through organic methods, under the shade of mango, jackfruit and silveroak trees. The coffee cultivation in Araku valley is done at an altitude from 900 feet upto 4000 feet above sea level. Apart from the scenic location of the valley, there is medium acidity in the iron-rich soil which gives a different smell and taste to the coffee. It has a peculiar mix of climatic conditions i.e., hot days and cool nights.
A perfect combination of these unique elements is what makes this coffee flavorful. In a span of a decade, Araku valley coffee plantations have become a major tourist attraction and the valley is now one of the crown jewels of Andhra Pradesh.
Popularity of the coffee
It is said that with growing popularity of coffee cultivation in the Araku valley, business has taken a 180 degree turn in the region. Over 90% of those engaged in coffee cultivation in the region have been elevated of poverty. According to government figures, there are nearly 3.66 lakh coffee farmers spread across 10 mandals in the valley.
In 2018, the Coffee Board applied for G.I tag for Araku valley coffee in 2018 and in 2019, it was awarded the food tag by the Chennai-based GI registry along with four others which are Coorg Arabica coffee from Karnataka, Wayanad Robusta coffee from Kerala, Chikmagalur Arabica from Karnataka and Bababudangiris Arabica coffee also from Karnataka.
Having a G.I tag makes the source altogether more reputable. It is used on products which belong to a specific geographical location or origin & is a certification that the product possesses certain qualities that are unique to that locality.
In 2021, it was reported that Araku valley is the largest and the most famous coffee-growing region in Andhra Pradesh. According to the Coffee Board of India, on average, 3100 MT of (mainly) Arabica coffee is harvested from this region. About 90% of the total Araku coffee production is exported to countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. Araku valley coffee is sold as a gourmet coffee brand in Paris. Some of its variants are priced at Rs. 7000/kg.