A Day Exploring the Coffee Plantations of Coorg

Last month when the major part of southern India got hit with bad floods, my heart broke. A part of our country which is so green and beautiful, was going through its worst time and though I was happy to see people joining hands for help, but it also left a few scared to visit southern India again. Or atleast not NOW. At that time, I was doing the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, ignorant of the whole world and it was after 10 days only, that I got the news. I admit, I couldn’t do much but it amazes me when I still hear people backing out from their holiday plans, even when the things are normal now. Everything is not permanent and forever. Infact a recent ad from Kerala Tourism, almost had me in tears when they said that “Kerala is now Open and waiting for you”

Fortunately my visit to Coorg recently, proved that a small town which bore the consequences of the rains recently, is buzzing again. And though few told me that the road conditions are still in bad shape, I am happy to share that everything here is back to normal

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The Beautiful Coorg

Coorg was where my Journey of Solo Traveling Started

Visiting Coorg felt like visiting my old days of solo traveling again because it was from where  my journey of Solo Traveling started, back in 2011. I came to Bengaluru for a corporate training and over a weekend made an impromptu plan to visit Coorg with a friend. She ditched the last minute but I decided to do it all by myself.

The Coffee Plantations of Coorg  

But it was the first time that I was actually exploring the coffee plantations of Coorg and what better way to do this than on an International Coffee Day. I have been into many tea and Coffee estates, but this was the first time that I went deep inside into one ,understanding the whole process of coffee production from the base and few facts had me intrigued

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Exploring the Nestle Coffee Estate in Kushalnagar

The Coffee Production of India

I was at the coffee estate of Nestle India in Kushalnagar where the whole process was explained and demonstrated to me. Apparently, the Coffee production in India is majorly dominated by the South Indian states only, followed by the North East. 70 percent of the Coffee production is carried out in Karnataka region followed by Kerala which is around 20 percent. Tamil Nadu and North East occupy the remaining space. Indian coffee is said to be the finest coffee because it is grown in shade rather than direct sunlight, which takes away the quality. India is the seventh largest country globally responsible for coffee production

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The Cherries, from which the raw beans will be extracted

Geographic & Environment Parameters

The major reason why Coffee is grown in the limited part of India is because it requires favorable weather conditions to support its growth. If incase anything goes missing, it can spoil a plant. Someone from the team mentioned if the same can be grown in Delhi and the answer was a straight NO, owning to the parameters. A minimum elevation of 500-1500m is required for these plants to grow. The temperature should vary between 15 degree- 30 degree celcius, with a relative humidity level of 70 percent to 90 percent. Most important, the soil should be deep, rich in organic matter, well drained and slightly acidic.

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Species of Coffee Grown in India

India produces the two well known species of coffee, which are Arabica and Robusta. The first variety that was introduced in the Baba Budan Giri hill ranges of Karnataka during the 17th century.

What is Arabica & Robusta

Robusta- a type of coffee is made from the Coffea canephora plant, a coffee bean which is low in acidity but high on bitterness. The beans of Robusta are used primarily in instant coffee, espresso, and as a filler in ground coffee blends, the origins of which is in central and western sub-Saharan Africa.

Roasted Robusta beans produce a strong, full-bodied coffee with a distinctive, earthy flavour, but usually with more bitterness

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That’s Robusta Flower

While Arabica, which is famous as the mountain coffee, is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated, representing some 60% of global production

I tasted both the coffee beans at the testing lab and found that Arabica is more acidic and mild, compared to Robusta which is more bitter and strong in flavour

The Process

It is a lengthy process which is undertaken to produce a fine coffee produce. Coffee seeds are generally planted in large beds in shaded nurseries, to protect them from direct sunlight. The planting often is carried out during the wet season, so that the soil remains moist while the roots become firmly established.

Depending on the variety, it takes approximately 3 to 4 years for the coffee plant to bear fruit, which called a coffee cherry, turns a bright, deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested.

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Rain Gauge to measure the rains at Nestle Coffee estate

There is typically one major harvest a year except in countries like Colombia, where there are two flowerings annually

All coffees are harvested in two ways. Either Strip or selectively picked. In strip picked- the cherries are stripped off of the branch at one time, either by machine or by hand. While the other method, only the ripe cherries are harvested, which are picked individually by hand. Because this kind of harvest is labour intensive and more costly, it is used primarily to harvest the finer Arabica beans.

How they are Processed:

There are two ways to start the processing of coffee beans, once they are ripped off from the plant. One is the Dry method which is primarily an age-old method of processing coffee where the freshly picked cherries are simply spread out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun.  In order to prevent the cherries from spoiling, they are turned throughout the day and covered at night or during rain to prevent them from getting wet. Depending on the weather, this process might continue for several weeks for each batch of coffee until the moisture content of the cherries drops to 11%.

Another one is the Wet Method which removes the pulp from the coffee cherry after harvesting so the bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on. First, the freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean

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The process is followed by a cupping session where the quality of the coffee is repeatedly checked before roasting of the beans. This process usually takes place in a room specifically designed to facilitate it. We were given a demo where the taster — usually called the cupper — evaluates the beans for their overall visual quality. The cupper noses the brew to experience its aroma, an essential step in judging the coffee’s quality, followed by tasting it by sipping it on the tongue, to check the taste.

The beans are then roasted, which transforms the green coffee into the aromatic brown beans that we usually consume. Most roasting machines maintain a temperature of about 550 degrees Fahrenheit and the beans are kept moving throughout the entire process to keep them from burning.

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NESCAFE as a part of their 4C programme, strive to build a community of over 850 farmers, training them into best farming practices, ensuring that the future of great quality coffee

Nestle Launching EbyNescafe:

And to celebrate the occasion of International Coffee Day, Nestle India went a step ahead to launch India’s first smart coffee maker cum mug. Why smart? Because this machine will give you the luxury of operating it from your mobile wherever you want, through an app download and can be operated through a bluetooth. The video will let you explain all that this smart mug is capable off and while you are seeing this, don’t forget to get this one booked for you

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See I am carrying it as well 🙂

On the whole, it was a fulfilling day and glad that I could make it to coffee estate finally

Have you visited one? How was your experience?

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