Exploring Coffee Plantations while our visit to Coorg was not on the list. But as suggested by our bus driver, we headed towards one of the private properties that he was aware of. He introduced our group to the guide of the property. This property was in the small rural village named Ibnivalvadi in Madikeri.
We always heard that Coorg is famous for its coffee and spices. But rarely we had any idea and insights about it. The host seemed to be kind and generous about the work and efforts they are putting into creating these coffee plants. We started following him as he introduced us to the quiet piece of heaven in the midst of hilly regions.
The first thing he showed us were the two main varieties of coffee. They separate both the species with a road in between so as to differentiate between them properly. There is a major difference between their size, taste, and type of growth.
Varieties of Coffee:
Arabica has a softer, sweeter taste and it grows at a height of 7-8 feet. The berries grow randomly on its small stems with soft branches. The maintenance cost of Arabica is greater than the other variety as the insects affect it more due to its small and soft stem.
Robusta contains higher caffeine resulting in a bitter taste. It stands more than 10 feet with harder branches and big stems. The berries of Robusta grow in clusters.
Growth of the Coffee Plantations in Coorg:
Arabica is superior to robusta in the markets which creates more demand for Arabica. It counts for 70% of the production while Robusta counts only 30%. Both species yield 2 crops per year. The lifespan of a coffee plant is 30-35 years. When it starts from a bean, it takes 3-4 years for the first yield and then every year ahead.
The first flower buds start growing in the branches in February and March. There is a term for the first rain that falls on these coffee buds, called the “Coffee rain”.
When the coffee rain starts pouring, the flowers start blooming from the buds. These white-colored coffee flowers depict jasmine flowers in their appearance and smell. They are visible only 2 days in a single year. After the flowers bloom, the next day itself they will dry and fruit buds start opening from them.
When the rain starts falling on coffee plants, the fruit buds start growing bigger. First, there will be green color berries which further turn yellowish. After a few days, they turn into crimson red color berries. These crimson red berries are the perfect ones to harvest.
After harvesting the crimson red berries, inside there will be two beans. They use these beans for coffee and the outer cover called musk as a compost. The beans are then dried, roasted and finally ready for serving into a cup.
They plant trees that grow huge after some years and form a dense forest to provide shed for the coffee plants. Coffee plants need 40% of the shed to grow rich. They use “Dolomite”, an anhydrous carbonate mineral to maintain the pH level of the soil. It provides calcium and magnesium to the soil. The pH level of soil has to be 6 i.e acidic.
Labors behind the Coffee plantations in Coorg:
Both men and women work at the coffee plantations to earn a source of income. The owners pay equal wages to both of them. Their work starts from 8 am until 5 pm with a break of 1 hour from 1 pm to 2 pm. Their weekly holiday is Friday and not Sunday like ours. The owners pay extra wages if the workers continue their work after 5 pm which we term it as OT (Over Time).
They don’t pay their salary during harvesting time. This is because they pay only for the KiloGrams of coffee that the workers harvest. The strategy behind this being that the workers will harvest fast and not waste any of the crops. It is beneficial both for the workers and the owners. During the harvesting of Arabica, they pay 5-6 Rs per kg and for Robusta they pay 3-4 Rs per kg.
Spices in the Coffee Plantations of Coorg:
Another famous thing that you will come across in Coorg is the spices. These coffee plantations also have trees of cardamom and pepper climbers. You can see different types of pepper such as white, green and black pepper.
The biggest skilled work here is the vanilla plantation. The pollination for the vanilla plant is not done by any of the birds or insects. The worker does this pollination with their hands by using a stick to pollinate.
Experiments on Coffee plants:
People here are continuously doing some experiments on coffee plants. We came across one of the experiments where they have planted trees distanced by 7 feet in a bush shape. The adjacent distance is 3.25 feet. They have arranged the plants in a cone shape as a purpose to provide a better shed for themselves and yield higher.
Another one was the area with small new coffee plants covered with coconut tree barks. They provide enough moisture and shed for the new plants.
The Coffee Processing Unit:
The laborers harvest the crimson red color berries. After harvesting the berries, there is a sorting yard that separates the green and red color berries. Laborers don’t get the money for green color berries. They earn only for the red berries. Behind the sorting bar is a weighing machine to weigh the berries.
After weighing, there is a fruit yard where they dump all the coffee berries. From the fruit yard, through water, coffee berries directly go to the upper part. In the upper part, there is a funnel. The good berries collate in the middle and the lighter ones float on the surface.
The floating berries will fall at the backside where they collect it separately. They dry these lighter berries without removing the outer cover in sunlight for 10-11 days. After some process, they sell this out as a lower grade coffee.
They collect the good berries from the middle part in 2 silver baskets. Here the washer separates the beans from its outer cover. If you touch these beans, you will feel a sticky thing called mucilages. The beans are then passed into cylinders where it washes again and it separates the mucilage. The mucilage is then removed through another pipe and the beans are washed again with water.
The beans are then passed on to the drying yard where they dry the beans for 5-6 days. After drying they export them.
Otherwise, after drying, the next process is parchment removal. A process for removing the skin of the beans. When they remove the skin, inside there will be a green color bean. It is useful for making green coffee. After that, they take it for roasting. There are 7-8 types of roasting. After roasting only the beans get the coffee smell and coffee taste. They grind the beans after roasting and make it ready for serving a cup.
Wild animals in the Coorg Coffee plantations:
Wild animals do come in these private properties but they are rarely noticed. They include wild boar, elephants, barking deers, civet cats, squirrels, birds, butterflies, monkeys, snakes, a lot of insects, wild rabbits, wild hens, and peacocks.
Kopi Luwak – the world’s most expensive coffee is also found here.
This is a Civet Cat that consumes the selected coffee berries and it removes the outer cover. The beans along with mucilages pass into its digestive system. It mixes with all the enzymes and nutrients which ferment the beans and they will defecate it. The defecated material along with other fecal matter is collected and sold as Kopi Luwak coffee.
A cat’s poop serving as a coffee. Strange, isn’t it?
So that was all about the whole coffee plantation in Coorg. We would love to know if you were aware of these things before or are they new to you?