This sweet and balanced coffee from Ratnagiri Estate begins with an intriguing fragrance of maraschino, strawberry, sweet pastry, and banana on the nose. In the cup, mild florals precede an increasingly nuanced profile as the coffee cools, with soft integrated acidity and sweet flavors of vanilla, orange, and mild apricot in the finish.
This anaerobic, washed process catuai lot comes from producers Divya and Ashok Patre at Ratnagiri Estate, located in Karnataka, India. Their commitment to innovative processing approaches and environmental sustainability come together to create a profoundly satisfying cup from one of the oldest, and most overlooked, coffee producing regions in the world.
Some of the finest coffees being produced in India today come from the Chickmagalur region in the southwest state of Karnataka, where coffee was first planted in India in the 17th century. According to historical record, the 17th century sufi monk Baba Budan smuggled arabica coffee seeds to India from Yemen where, at the time, export of coffee was tightly controlled, with coffee only leaving Yemen in a roasted or boiled state so as to prevent propagation of the crop elsewhere. After successful cultivation in India, the hills that became home to the many flourishing coffee estates in the mountainous Western Ghats came to be eponymously known as the Bababudangiri. While it remains the case that India is one of the largest producers of robusta coffee in the world today, it’s also true that India is capable of producing high quality arabica coffee, a fact that the specialty market has only more recently begun to recognize and appreciate.
One such estate is the 108 hectare Ratnagiri estate, today owned and operated by Ashok Patre and his wife Divya who took ownership of the estate in 1989. Generations of Patre’s have grown peppercorn and coffee for nearly a century at Ratnagiri, and Mr. Ashok and his wife continue to push boundaries for the future of the estate, particularly when it comes to coffee processing. The present lot was pulped and placed in stainless steel tanks flushed of oxygen, where the seeds were then allowed to ferment for an astonishing 112 hours before being washed and dried. It has often been our experience at Passenger that coffees fermented for this long will almost always exhibit off flavors in the cup, reminiscent of overripe fruit or rotten fruit - this is not the case with this coffee. The remarkably clean sweetness and fresh fruit flavors in Mr. Ashok’s coffees are a testament to his investment in processing infrastructure and his painstaking attention to detail during fermentation.
In addition to his pursuit of quality, Mr. Ashok has also maintained a commitment to environmental sustainability at the estate. Only organic soil inputs are used to fertilize the plants at Ratnagiri, which supports both the health and longevity of the coffee plants as well as the native shade trees that cover the estate. Fresh water from streams on the estate are used for processing, and strict protocols are upheld to process any used water before it re-enters the surrounding environment. Water use is further reduced by use of an EcoPulper prior to fermentation. As is clearly evident in the cup, the sum of the Patre’s efforts at Ratnagiri continue to build the case for India as one of the most overlooked regions in the coffee growing world.