Mauritian Coffee: A Rare Delight from the Indian Ocean
Updated: 16 hours ago
Officially known as the Republic of Mauritius, this island nation is located in the Indian ocean. It is situated about 2000 km off the southeast coast of the African continent and east of Madagascar. Mauritius is made up of the main island, which is itself named ‘Mauritius’, Rodrigues, Agaléga, and St Brandon. While its population is spread throughout its many islands, the majority of people live on the main island
While Mauritius offers great conditions for coffee growing, its industry is only localised at one farm. Presently, the country does not produce coffee for export, and this makes Mauritian coffee a very rare and valuable commodity.
The History of Coffee Growing in Mauritius
Coffee in Mauritius can trace its origins back to the 18th century; a period that was heavily involved with the East India Company. This was back when the country was known as Isle de France. During this time, the production of exotic crops such as coffee was encouraged by the French King Louis XV and his government.
During the 1720s, coffee from the city of Mokha in Yemen was introduced to Mauritius by French settlers. This period offered a boom for coffee production on these islands and lasted for around 100 years. Then, during the 1830s, the cultivation of coffee crops was sadly halted for two main reasons: strong hurricanes and coffee rust. The latter issue was caused by a fungus called hemileia vastatrix. The coffee rust caused by this fungus had drastic effects on Mauritius’ industry, decimating the majority of the island’s cash crop.
A new cash crop was found in the form of sugar cane, which was lucrative enough that coffee was not cultivated again until the late 1870s. While some coffee was being produced during the latter end of the 19th century, its main resurgence came during the late 1960s when a farm in Chamarel began cultivating coffea arabica.
Nowadays, Mauritius mainly produces coffee for its locals and it is rare to find green beans ready for export on the global market. Even with their own self-supplied coffee industry, the island nation imports from other countries including Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.
Cafe de Chamarel ile Maurice
Remember that farm in Chamarel? It’s actually the only producer of coffee in Mauritius. Cafe de Chamarel is the brand of coffee produced in Chamarel, which is located in the southwestern part of Mauritius. The brand started cultivating coffee in 1961, after a low yield of sugarcane caused the operators to consider revisiting the country’s history of coffee. Six years later in 1967, trees were planted in Chamarel’s mountainous area, and after another three years the first coffee cherries were ready for harvest.
Since then, Cafe de Chamarel’s operation has expanded to over 16 hectares of cultivated land. Trees grown at 280 metres above sea level in mineral-rich volcanic soils that give the coffee its unique flavour. Coffee cherries are harvested by hand between May and September, before being moved to the foot of Chamarel to be washed, milled, and roasted.
Coffee Farming in Mauritius
With temperatures consistently remaining between 17 ºC and 31 ºC, it can be safe to say that Mauritius benefits from an ideal warm, humid, and tropical climate all year round. The island is also host to volcanic soil, and this offers an ideal foundation for growing coffee.
On the other hand, Mauritius’ rather low altitude of 270 to 730 m.a.s.l makes it difficult to grow arabica coffee as crops are unable to produce the sugars that preserve the plants at higher regions. It is these sugars that would result in the ideal sweet spot higher altitude coffee is known for.
Coffee trees in Mauritius are planted between rows of palm trees that protect the crops from wind and harsh sunlight. They are usually planted together with bananas, pineapples, lychees, and papaya. This system of farming offers very healthy biodiversity and pesticides are never used. The incorporation of biodiversity in Mauritian farming provides an array of benefits to the environment, and supports a greener industry. After planting, the coffee trees then typically flower in November.
Where is Coffee Produced in Mauritius?
There is only one region in Mauritius where coffee is commercially grown. This is the Chamarel region, and is located to the southwest of the main island. This plantation is situated at an elevation of 280 m.a.s.l. and covers over 16 ha.
Types and Varietals of Coffee in Mauritius
Today, Mauritius is mainly known to cultivate arabica coffee, after this crop was introduced during colonisation. This is unusual considering the country’s low altitude. The presence of high quality soil and ideal climate allow the trees to thrive however.
The island has also recorded growing wild species. These include coffea mauritiana, coffea macrocarpa, coffea bernadiniana, and coffea myrtifolia. C. macrocarpa is known to produce very large coffee cherries. Considering these are wild varietals, it can be difficult to find these crops.
What Does Mauritius Coffee Taste Like?
A cup of Mauritian coffee will offer a smooth, yet slightly acidic mouthfeel. The aromas of this coffee typically bring forth sensations of cocoa and citrus. This demonstrates a great balance of coffee that is well-rounded and suitable for any occasion.
Harvest Date of Mauritius Coffee
After Mauritian coffee flowers and bears its fruits, the cherries are harvested by hand between May and September.
How Much Coffee is Produced in Mauritius?
Annual production of Mauritian coffee has recorded recent figures of 10,000 tonnes grown across 16 ha of cultivated land. Coffee is only produced in small quantities owing to the lack of commercial farm space.
The coffee is then wet processed either at Chamarel or Café La Fournaise, the latter of which only roasts coffee. The coffee is known to have exceptional quality thanks to careful handling. Local roasters then make Mauritian coffee available as whole beans, espresso, and filter coffee.
How Much Coffee is Exported in Mauritius?
Currently, Mauritian coffee is only produced for its locals and is not available for export. With more support and investment this could be developed within the next decade and provide the global market with some very unique beans.
The island of Mauritius has a history of coffee that can be traced back to the early 18th century. Natural disasters decimated its coffee industry until a small resurgence in the 1960s. Nowadays, only one farm on the island produces coffee.
While Mauritian coffee is rare, it is known to have exceptional quality and a unique character. This is very unusual, as its only commercial coffee farm rests at a very low altitude. Sadly, Mauritian coffee is not made available for the global market. However, there is certainly opportunity for this. While farm altitudes remain low, the island itself offers an ideal climate and soil for further cultivation.