Coffee was initially only grown in Ethiopia and then cultivated for mass production in Yemen. During this period, the export of green coffee was almost impossible, and the punishment for any sort of illegal trading was death. Coffee that left these countries was either roasted or salted to prevent germination. All of this changed when an Indian Muslim saint named Baba Budan smuggled 7 beans into India and planted them in the Chandragiri Hills in the princely state of Mysore (currently Karnataka). This was in the late 1600s. Systematic planting of the crop began from here mainly by native Indian farmers. Thus, India became the third country in the world to cultivate the coffee plant for consumption.
The British colonization
Not much is known about how well these initial crops grew, but coffee became a serious trade in India during the 18th century under the British occupation. They were responsible for converting the forests of South India into commercial plantations. Coffee became a commercial crop by the beginning of the 19th Century and it was exported to Europe via London. By the early 1940s Indian Arabica, also known as Mysore coffee, had made a name for itself in the European market. However, WW2 changed this equation quite a bit. The European markets dwindled and Mysore coffee began to lose its international popularity but gained domestic interest.
The early 1940s
These years saw the rise of the Indian Coffee Houses all over - you guessed it - India. They mainly served the infantry as this was during WW2. It was around this time that the foundation stone for Kaveri Coffee Works was also being laid. A gentleman by the name of M. V. Rao opened the India Coffee Kiosk in the heart of the military base in Bangalore. This kiosk served small bites, sandwiches and locally grown coffee. As the concept of coffee houses began to gain popularity, the political landscape of India was also changing. And with it there were ripple effects felt across every aspect of the country, including the coffee business.
The late 1940s
When India gained independence in 1947, the coffee trade was taken over by the newly formed Indian Government under the Coffee Board of India. It was around this time that M. V. Rao got a trading license for green coffee, and started one of the first privately-owned wholesale coffee trading and roasting businesses in independent India. The kiosk turned into a Roastery and retail shop serving freshly roasted, ground and brewed coffee. He also opened another office to cater to wholesale business. India Coffee Works was born - 'Works’ is another term for ‘factory’ that was very popular with business names during colonial and post-colonial India. Interestingly enough the coffee bags carried the symbol of the turbaned coffee house server which was the same as the symbol for the Indian Coffee Houses all over the country.
Post Independence and the years that followed brought along with it further changes. Read on for the next few decades of our coffee story and find out how we ended up at present day Kaveri Coffee Works.