Pan Roasted “Big Bean” Coffee from Amba Estate in Sri Lanka
Don’t worry, I have not grown tired of tea, not by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do occasionally come across other products while researching tea gardens that deserves some attention. This is definitely one of those products, not only because of the physical properties, but because of the story behind it that makes it such an interesting find.
This is not an ordinary coffee bean. From what I understand, this product has not been classified as Arabica beans nor Robusta beans. These beans are the Amba Estate, near Bandarawela, Uva District, Sri Lanka. This product is what Amba Estate calls their Pan-Roasted Big Bean coffee.
So what makes these beans so interesting? The beans, and the trees that they are harvested from, are true survivors of an epidemic that wiped out an entire industry in Sri Lanka. Many people do not realize this, but Sri Lanka, or as the British called it during their occupation, Ceylon, had a very healthy coffee production industry in the 1800’s. The fifteen years from 1830 to 1845 were called “Coffee Mania” in England. During this time, many investments were being focused on the Ceylon coffee industry. However, around 1860, unusual orange blemishes began to appear on coffee tree leaves. Within a decade, this fungal disease began spreading throughout Ceylon. By 1880, this disease had all but wiped out the coffee plantations, and thus the coffee industry in Ceylon. This disease was given the common name of “coffee rust” or “coffee blight”, with the scientific name of Hemileia Vastatrix. Many of the destroyed coffee plantations were later rehabilitated into tea plantations, which modern day Sri Lanka is very well known for. Some famous names like Robert Fortune, Sir Thomas Lipton, and James Taylor, played enormous roles in raising Ceylon out of the dark times of the coffee blight and into its past and current highly regarded status in terms of tea production.
There were a few coffee tree survivors, some of which still grow and produce coffee berries on the Amba Estate. These big beans are from such a survivor of the coffee blight. They are substantially larger than the common Arabica beans, which Amba Estate also offers. These beans are also pan-roasted, giving them a noticeably different aroma and taste than typical coffee roasting machines. As I am not an educated coffee taster, I am not going to embarrass myself trying to analyze this through organoleptic means. I probably embarrass myself enough on analyzing teas. 🙂
With such an interesting story, and the fact that I showed these to a knowledgeable and successful coffee roasting and distributing friend of mine, and he had never seen such a bean, inspired me to purchase a kilogram of these beans. If anyone inside the U.S. is interested in purchasing some of these beans, I will be happy to sell small amounts for sampling. Contact me through this blog, and I will respond shortly thereafter. If I get enough emails, then I will consider offering this coffee on my webstore, once it is available.
Cheers to Amba Estate for offering such interesting products, both in the realms of coffee and tea!