The story started with seven seeds

Baba Budan, a 17th-century Sufi saint from India, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. On the way back to his homeland, he came across a dark sweet liquid called Quahwa being served to other guests like him while in Mocha, a port city of Yemen that overlooks the Red Sea. This is where he first tasted coffee. He enjoyed the drink and thought of it as quite refreshing.

Besides being a trading hub for coffee, Mocha was also the source of the popular Mocha coffee beans. The Arabs knew coffee was unique and was extremely protective about their coffee industry. In those days, coffee was exported to other parts of the world in the roasted or baked form so that no one could grow their own. It was considered an illegal act to carry green coffee seeds out of Arabia.

But Baba Budan was so much in love with the drink that he wanted to bring it back with him. Since he couldn’t carry it, he decided to smuggle it instead. So he took just 7 green coffee seeds and hid them in his beard to avoid having them confiscated on his way back. Since the number seven is sacrosanct in the Islamic religion, the saint’s act of carrying seven coffee beans was considered a religious act. And that’s how the first 7 seeds of coffee made their way to India from Mocha to Mysore – in the beard of the courageous Sufi saint.

After returning from his pilgrimage, Baba Budan planted the Seven Seeds of Coffee in the courtyard of his hermitage in Chikmagalur, Karnataka and that became the birthplace and origin of coffee in India. The coffee plants gradually spread as backyard plantings, and later on to the surrounding Chandangiri Hills. To thank the Sufi saint for his efforts, the kind people of Chikmagalur named this entire mountain range as Baba Budan Giri (‘Giri’ meaning hill) in his honor. It includes the highest peaks of Karnataka. Filled with coffee plantations and estates that seem to go on forever, today Chikmagalur is also known as the Coffee Country. The 7 coffee beans planted by Baba Budan were of the Arabica coffee variety, which is today the second most cultivated coffee bean in India after Robusta, which is a modified, more climate sturdy variety of Arabica.