• The production of coffee is intimately tied to the colonial history of Mauritius, beginning under the French. Chamarel remains the last bastion of this production, the latter having been revived in the late 1960s and conserving a “savoir-faire” that has been lost in all other areas of the country. Coffee was first introduced under Labourdonnais and aimed to respond to the market demands of the time: coffee was becoming very much in demand in Europe along with indigo, cotton and sugar and possibilities to extend the market to the Middle East were being explored. This part of Mauritian history even gave the name to another village: Moka, which was chosen as a prime site for coffee cultivation due to its micro-climate.

The variety of coffee plants introduced came from Mocha in modern-day Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, introduced by Guillaume Dufresne in 1715. In 1723, 13 concessions of land had been granted in the Moka area for the production of coffee. Later around the 1740s, Labourdonnais then discouraged the plantation of coffee as the world market price was declining, and coffee production was being consolidated in neighbouring Bourbon. The production of coffee continued nonetheless on the island during the French period, and gradually declined with the rise of the sugar industry.[1]


From sugar to coffee

In 1872, the Chamarel estate covered 2,949 acres out of which 450 were under sugar cane production. Unfortunately, despite the renovation of the sugar factory in 1894 which required much effort to bring the machinery up to Chamarel, sugar yields were so low that production was discontinued a few years later. It is not until the late 1960s, however, the Chamarel started coffee production anew and on a larger scale. The development of coffee production was helped by Mr. Oswald du Chasteleer who had been cultivating coffee in the Belgian Congo, who noted that: “Arabica coffee as opposed to other varieties is much sought after for its quality and requires very specific climatic conditions that exist in only certain areas of the globe. These conditions exist in Chamarel”. [2] Production therefore began in 1967 by Case Noyale Ltd under the Compagnie Sucrière de Bel Ombre.


Present-day production

Coffee production has since remained a constant in the village for the past four decades. Covering a surface area of 16 hectares, coffee trees are grown in an area known as “Les Rouleaux”, not too far from the Seven Coloured Earth and sheltered by the Petite Riviere Noire peak.  The coffee beans are collected by hand and are transported to Case Noyale, where they are soaked, fermented and dried. The sun and climate in Case Noyale provides an ideal climate for this purpose. After the drying period, they are finally roasted at 200 degrees celsius for  twenty minutes to produce the coffee that is sold on the market [3]


[1] Sydney Selvon, A New Comprehensive History of Mauritius. 2012

[2] Jean-Pierre Lenoir, Bel Ombre, entre mer et montagne, Editions du Corsaire

[3] “Café de Chamarel – de la cerise à la tasse”, Weekend Scope, May 1, 2014

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