The tale of Tata Nullore Estate coffee that made it to the Starbucks Reserve in Seattle

The tale of Tata Nullore Estate
coffee that made it to the Starbucks Reserve in Seattle

A variety of Indian brew, which was grown in the hills of the Western Ghats in Coorg, quietly made its way to the caffeine connoisseurs at Starbucks’ Reserve in Seattle, a first for any Indian coffee.

Last year, this single-origin Arabica coffee grown in Karnataka’s Kodagu district was shipped around 8,000 miles to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle, USA, where it was roasted to perfection.

The Starbucks Reserve Programme is an ongoing series of the rarest and most exotic coffees which are unique, small-lot coffees that the company selects from all over the world.

Located at around 3,000 feet above sea level, Nullore estate is the largest Arabica plantation owned by the Tata—Starbucks’ joint venture partnership in India.


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The 394-hectare estate produces over 500 tonnes of coffee every year.

To put things into perspective, the first official ‘Indian coffee’ to be available through the brand: Starbucks was introduced in 2013, to celebrate the Tata-Starbucks first anniversary in the market.

Starbucks had created a special India-sourced coffee, called ‘India Estates Blend’, as a tribute but it was sourced, roasted, packaged, and sold only in India.

But that was sourced from multiple coffee lots, unlike Nullore Estate coffee which was is a 'Microlot coffee'. A Microlot is a small quantity coffee usually to about 40 bags, from a single estate that has been deliberately set aside from other coffee because it has a high 'cupping score which means better quality.

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Chacko P Thomas, Deputy CEO and Executive Director, Tata Coffee Ltd told Business Insider that for the company the approach to Indian Coffee has changed from one for the masses to specialty coffee such as the one from Nullore estate, ’’We always thought that the buck lies in volumes which led to profitability but then we found gems in our estates. Ms. Menon made us realize that some of our coffees need to be marketed as a brand as they are a great quality produce.”

What makes ‘Block 19’special?

For starters, this Arabica coffee is grown under a unique two-tier shade system under local and fruit bearing trees.

The shade is carefully controlled, which helps the coffee bean mature slowly, allowing it to absorb its environment which gives it the special smell and taste.

The tale of Tata Nullore Estate
coffee that made it to the Starbucks Reserve in Seattle

The Taste

The coffee is intensely fragrant and aromatic, with notes of red apple, caramel, citrus, toasted nuts, and milk chocolate.
This taste and smell is attributed to the flora and fauna that surrounds this 8-hectares estate.

Trees like Ficus, Jackfruit, and Silver Oak surround the coffee plants giving the earthiness to the coffee.
Block 19 is home to a colony of ‘fruit bats’ and migratory birds which are the main reason behind the coffee’s fruity persona.
The estate also plays host to the honey bee.

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Sunalini Menon, Asia’s first woman coffee expert has been credited for the experiential of deconstructing the Nullore Microlot. She closely worked on this micro lot that has put Indian coffee on the global map.

She says that this coffee has opened up opportunities for the quality coffee that India produces now, ‘To nurture every particular bean to reach the best quality, the processing takes up the entire year. From the soil, to the climate to even pesticides, can affect the coffee bean and we took extra care to send out 2 tonnes of the Nullore estate coffee of which each bean was tested for quality before being shipped out to the US," she proudly exclaims.