Episode 585: India Balmaadi Biodynamic Natural

We first came across Balmaadi Estate in India many years ago and loved the coffees. You did too, so it was really disappointing when we weren’t able to get hold of them any more.

Fast forward 9 years and we’ve been able to get it here again! It wasn’t an easy process, but it’s been a huge pleasure to see an old favourite return. More than that though, this time round we’ve been able to visit the farm and learn more than ever before about this unique place and what makes it so special.

As is so often the case, what makes it so special turns out to be the people. Balmaadi, as we know it today, owes a huge amount to one person - Unnamalai Thiagarjen. The farm had been in her husband’s family since the 1970s, but it was in 2003 that she took over running it. Totally new to coffee farming, she went off and studied, beginning to worry about how to make profitable a traditional farm in a region which is frequently cut off from access by monsoon weather. She realised that the fertilisers and pesticides most commercial farms used would be difficult to get and need lots of labour to apply (equally difficult in a remote region like this).

It was then that she came across the Biodynamic model, which she applied ever after. Combining Organic principles with spiritual ones, she’s made the most of her isolated location. This means making their own compost, foliar sprays and other treatments from the other plants and material on the farm. It was a great idea to take a challenge and make it into an opportunity - which in turn has produced an interesting and unique coffee.

They grow two varietals - Kent and S795. Both of these are common to India, but less common in other countries. Kent is a Typica mutation which is thought to have occurred in the early 20th Century in India, before being introduced in Kenya (where it has lost popularity to the SL varietals and Ruiru 11). S-795 is thought to be a cross of Kent with a Liberica/Arabica hybrid called S-288 (catchy name, right?) and has become popular in India and Indonesia for being quite resistant to Leaf Rust.

A big, gloopy coffee with loads of sultana and a sweetness which reminds me of marzipan. There's a little cherry jam in there too, which makes for a delicious and interesting balance. As it cools, the booziness really comes centre stage with a big hit of Armagnac.

  • Country: India
  • State: Tamil Nadu
  • Region: Nilgiris
  • Farm: Balmaadi Estate
  • Owner: Unnamalai Thiagarajen
  • Varietals: Kent and S795
  • Process: Natural
  • Certification: Biodynamic
  • Drying Method: Patios and African beds
  • Altitude: 1,200-1,830 m.a.s.l
  • Farm size: 169 hectares, of which 148 hectares are coffee

  • Cupping notes: Sultana, marzipan, cherry jam, Armagnac

  • Clean Cup: (1-8): 6

  • Sweetness: (1-8): 6.5
  • Acidity: (1-8): 6
  • Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6.5
  • Flavour: (1-8): 7
  • Aftertaste: (1-8): 6
  • Balance: (1-8): 6.5
  • Overall: (1-8): 6.5
  • Correction:(+36): +36

  • Total: (max. 100): 87

Roasting Information: Medium-dark - this needs to be pushed pretty hot to get the right level of development, just up to the first pops of second.

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