Baba Budan and the seven coffee seeds

The legend of Baba Budan is the story of how coffee cultivation started in India. The History of Coffee in India is, like all great things, a mix of fact and legend.

The coffee monopoly

In the 1600s, coffee was already popular in the Middle East, for its medicinal and stimulative properties. At the time, it was only allowed to export out of the region roasted beans (so that coffee could not be grown elsewhere, and consequently, control of the coffee trade would remain in the region). Baba Budan, a Saint from India, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, it is said. While returning, he smuggled in to India seven precious coffee seeds, likely from Yemen, hidden in the folds of his robes.

India coffee

The seven coffee seeds

The seven seeds were planted in the hills, and thus, coffee was introduced to India. The hills he planted the seeds in were in the high altitudes of present day’s Chikmagalur in Karnataka. Even today, there is a shrine dedicated to Baba Budan, with thousands of devotees visiting it every year. The hills of the region are called Baba Budan Giris (Giri means ‘hill’ in Kannada, the local language of the region).

India coffee
Shade grown Indian coffee

The growth of coffee cultivation

For around 200 years after this, coffee cultivation was largely unorganized, and coffee was grown & sold as wild produce. In the early 1800s, the Maharajah (King) of Mysore encouraged cultivation of coffee at plantation scale. Native Indian planters & the British, who had political & trade interests in India, took this forward, and established large plantation holdings in South India, in present day Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Kerala.

India coffee
Hand picked Indian coffee cherries

Indian coffee today

Numerous problems had to be overcome in the process, including coffee diseases like blight. Ever since, India has been one of the pioneers in the control of coffee plant diseases like blight & rust.

In the modern era of Independent India (since 1947), processing methods have improved and matured, and aided by the Coffee Board of India, the coffee industry is a thriving one in India, with Indian Coffee being sought after around the world.

India coffee
Mr. Anil Ravindran

This fascinating piece of history was written and delivered to us by Mr. Anil Ravindran. Thank you!

Anil Ravindran is Managing Partner at RV Commodity Services, India’s premier choice export brokerage firm. If you’re a coffee importer and would like to get in touch with Anil, please send him an email to: [email protected] 

Our own Coffee storyteller:
Ella Harari– the Wandering Goddess.

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Ella Harari the Wandering Goddess and her Maasai mama friend
coffee types


Ella Harrari

Ella Harrari

Ella "the Wandering Goddess" is a traveler and a coffee teller :-)

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We are at “Elijah Coffee” group of people who love coffe and have something to say about it :-)


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