Everyone loves that sweet smell of coffee! Well honestly, I didn’t… until I started working 9am to 7pm in Hollywood, then I needed that caffeine to get me over the 3pm slump. Like many, I started with coffee strangled by too much sugar and milk. I’ve weaned myself off and have started to appreciate the flavor itself (though some say it’s just caffeine addiction helping me swallow a bitter taste). But no matter your personal feelings, you have to admit that coffee and tea crosses all cultures and societies. It brings people together. And much of the fun of loving something, especially food or drink, is knowing where it came from and how it got to you. If you’re looking to find the origin of coffee and tea from India, Chikmagalur in Karnataka is the perfect place to start!
Here are some tidbits on coffee production in India, to help put this all in context:
Coffee production in India is dominated in the hill tracts of South Indian states, with the state of Karnataka accounting 71% followed by Kerala 21% and Tamil Nadu 5% of production of 8,200 tonnes. Indian coffee is said to be the finest coffee grown in the shade rather than direct sunlight anywhere in the world. There are approximately 250,000 coffee growers in India; 98% of them are small growers.
Before we get to the plantations, let’s take a look at where you can stay…
The Serai Resort
Mugthihalli Post, K M Road, Chickmagaluru, Karnataka 577133, India
Inspired by coffee, owned by Coffee Day and designed to be a complete resort, this hotel has all the amenities you could want. Some room have private pools, though a large pool sits at the center of the resort. There is a game room, spa and restaurant. I enjoyed a 30 minute massage for a very responsible $20. We played ping pong in the game room and sipped a cup of coffee while enjoying the view. However, I warn you against the restaurant for meals. Ours took close to an hour to get and the appetizer arrived with the meal. And though they are striving to provide international dishes, they won’t be worth the wait or price by a long shot. Just stick with the Indian dishes – perhaps they’d arrive faster? Otherwise, we wished we could have spent more time in the magazine-worthy rooms and resort.
Badra Estates Coffee Plantation
Through some family connections, we were lucky to have a behind-the-scenes tour at Badra Estates & Industries Ltd. A quick review of the process – When the red coffee cherries are ripe, they are hand-picked. They do through a “wet process” where they are de-pulped. Laid out, the beans then dry with workers turn them to prevent spoiling. Afterwards, the beans go through a hulling process that makes sure to remove the outer parchment before they are weighed, measured and graded. Then comes the best part – the taste test. Here are a few steps in the process:
A pleasant surprise was a short tour of the housing and schools for the workers and their families. Japanese investors insisted that 10% of their investment be spent on charitable causes for the workers.
The executives and workers were kind, welcoming and accomodating. Checking out a tea plantation was also an option, but keep in mind that the distance between destinations can often take 2-3 hour. After an hour or two, we had to head back to Bangalore (if I remember correctly, it was a 5-6 hour drive). I would say that these visits are worth it for the curious coffee drinker. However, they’re not a simply day trip from Bangalore, so make sure it’s an interest for everyone in your party before planning a detour.