Wayanad Robusta coffee

Historical significance & Relevant Information of Wayanad Robusta coffee

Coffee has been cultivated in the Wayanad region for over 250 years. The British introduced coffee plantations in the late 18th century during their colonial rule in India.The appropriate geographical conditions, weather and soil helped the coffee plantation to spread in the hilly areas of the District. Coffee in Wayanad (67,426 ha.) shares 33.65 per cent of the total cropped area in the district and 90 percent of the coffee area in the state.

Wayanad Robusta Coffee

Wayanad Robusta coffee is grown at elevations ranging from 700 to 2100 meters above sea level. Robusta Coffee , scientifically known as Coffea Canephora, a species of coffee, traces its roots to central and western Sub-Saharan Africa and belongs to the Rubiaceae family.

Robusta, a diploid species of coffee, features broad, sizable leaves with a pale green hue. It typically produces a higher number of flowers per node compared to Arabica coffee plants. Robusta requires cross-pollination due to its self-incompatibility.


Wayanad District is located on the eastern part of Kerala, positioned between the North latitudes 11°27′ and 11°58’35”, and the East longitudes 75°47’50” and 76°26’35”. It shares borders with various districts: to the North with Kodagu District of Karnataka State, to the East with Mysore District of Karnataka State and Nilgiri District of Tamil Nadu State, to the South with Nilambur Taluk of Malappuram District and Kozhikode Taluk of Kozhikode District, and to the West with Quilandy and Vadakara Taluks of Kozhikode District and Thalassery Taluk of Kannur District. Due to its extensive agricultural activities, Wayanad has earned recognition as one of the 18 significant agrobiodiversity hotspots worldwide.

The flora of Wayanad epitomizes the biodiversity of the Western Ghats, featuring plantation crops thriving in the cool climate of the region. A significant portion of the district is dedicated to coffee cultivation, with notable areas including Meppady, Poothadi, Kaniambetta, Noolpuzha, Ambalavayal, Thavinhal, Panamaram, and Thirunelly Panchayats.

History of coffee cultivation in Wayanad

During the early nineteenth century, Manantoddy served as a military station where troops were stationed on the hill. The commanding officer, as historical records suggest, undertook experimental coffee cultivation on this hill, utilizing his men for the task. The coffee trees thrived in the fertile soil of the region. Consequently, North Wayanad emerged as a hub for plantation activities. Notably, in “Letters from Malabar,” authored by Jacob Cater Visscher, who served as Chaplain at Cochin from 1717 to 1723, certain phrases echo this historical narrative.

“The coffee shrubs are planted in gardens for pleasure and yields plenty of fruit which attains a proper degree of ripeness. If it thrives, great advantage no doubt accrues to the East India Company who will not thus be compelled to purchase such quantities from Mocha, where the price is very high….” The East India Company initiated an experimental plantation near Tellicherry at Anjarakandi under the supervision of Mr. Murdock Brown, which reportedly thrived around 1800. Captain Bevan facilitated the transfer of plants from Anjarakandy to Manantoddy in Wayanad in 1825, during his tenure, and these plants established themselves remarkably well. As a result, coffee seeds were distributed to local cultivators for further planting under the supervision of Mr. W. Sheffield, the Collector of Malabar at that time.
Captain Bevan concluded his tenure in Manantoddy in 1831.

Subsequently, two members of the firm Parry and Company, en route to the Bababudans, were so impressed by the coffee cultivation they observed in Manantoddy that they proposed the opening of the “Pew” estate on the hill. Mr. Pugh from Ceylon, an experienced planter, spearheaded this venture. By 1869, South India boasted approximately 120 thousand acres of coffee plantations, with 60 thousand acres located in Wayanad alone. The second half of the 19th century witnessed the zenith of coffee cultivation in the region. Notable coffee estates flourished in various areas, including Mananthavady, Panamaram, Thirunelly (in North Wayanad), Thariod, Vythiri, Vazhavatta, SulthanBathery, and Kolagappara (in South Wayanad). Ownership of these plantations predominantly rested with Europeans, particularly the English.

Native mode of cultivation

Coffee-based farming is a prominent feature of Wayanad, where coffee is cultivated both as a sole crop and in combination with pepper. With approximately 54% of the district’s area dedicated to agricultural land, coffee farming plays a vital role in Wayanad’s agricultural landscape. Robusta coffee dominates coffee cultivation in Wayanad, accounting for over 95% of total production. Embracing natural farming practices, farmers often intercrop coffee with spice plants, primarily pepper, to shield the cash crop from pests and diseases. Small and marginal farmers commonly adopt a mixed cropping approach, integrating coffee cultivation with other cash crops like pepper, arecanut, and banana. Pepper and banana crops serve as shade providers for coffee plantations, aligning with natural farming methodologies aimed at mitigating threats from pests and coffee-related diseases. Coffee harvesting typically commences in December and extends until February, marking the culmination of the coffee harvest season in the region.

Weeding and Manuring

Weed control in coffee plantations is a thrice-yearly endeavor, led by women laborers wielding sickles. Rounds of weeding coincide with the monsoon seasons, followed by soil care activities. Pruning occurs post-harvest and in August-September. Fertilizers are applied twice annually, synchronized with weeding. Harvesting begins in December, concluding by January’s end. Pest control measures are taken in April, with pre-monsoon manuring in May.


In the forested hills of Wayanad, the soil predominantly consists of Forest loam and Laterite types. On the Wayanad Plateau, the soil primarily comprises Forest loam, with the upper layer being rich in organic matter and nitrogen but deficient in bases due to leaching. The soil is dark in color and includes red loamy and red sandy soils. These soil types are particularly suitable for coffee plantation due to their characteristics.


In Wayanad, wild tree species such as Rosewood, Anjili (Artocarpus), Mullumurikku (Erythrina), and numerous other nondescript varieties are still conserved. These trees serve the purpose of providing shade to coffee plants. However, in many coffee plantations, traditional species are gradually being replaced by Silver Oak, a tree well-adapted to colder climates. Silver Oak grows rapidly and is extensively cultivated in coffee plantations, primarily for shade and to support the growth of pepper vines.

Uniqueness :

Wayanad district stands out for its distinctive geographical and climatic features, including the presence of evergreen forests. The specific terrain where coffee is cultivated imparts a unique aroma and flavor profile to the roasted coffee beans. Wayanad Robusta Coffee, cultivated at distinct elevations and shaded conditions, boasts a highly distinctive aroma and flavor, earning it a notable reputation.

The yield potential of Robusta Coffee in Wayanad ranges from 1400 to 2500 Kg/Ha under rainfed and irrigated conditions, respectively. Wayanad Robusta is characterized as softish to neutral in cup, full-bodied, with a remarkably intense aroma and a subtle hint of chocolate. These characteristics make Wayanad Robusta particularly suitable for blending with Arabica and are often used in preparing espresso coffee