PART 1: The Getting There
It was one of those office days, where I sat over a cup of coffee, buried in my own thoughts and questions about the first few steps of the coffee making process. Wondering and visualizing how the coffee farms must be like; what happened to my coffee before I picked them at the roasters; how and what coffee looked like on a plantation level; how much and what kind of effort do the farmers put in before we get the final processed form of coffee ready to be served; and all sorts of other questions. All this thinking led me to book the next flight to Bangalore and by 11 pm of the same night, I was off!
I reached Bangalore at around 1 am with absolutely no pre-bookings, or any prior appointments, or even an idea about what to do next! I did not even plan out on where and how to go about from the airport! I eventually called a good old friend of mine for shelter and ended up spending the night there. Morning came, I picked up my bag and was off to start an adventure of cafe hopping! The initial plan was to just go around, familiarising myself with all the new cafes in town and enjoying their innovative drinks, but then I also decided to go through my contact list to look up anybody I knew from the city whom I could revisit and catch up with. That’s when I happened to stumble upon Ganga and Pavan’s names (Co-owners of Coffee Mechanics). I immediately sent out a text to them and they were kind enough to set up a time to meet up later that day.
As I was waited at the Coffee Mechanics, to meet them, I got myself a Mazagran. It’s one of my favorite coffee-based summer drinks and definitely, a must try. In a few mins, I see them making their way in. We spent about an hour or so, talking, when they mentioned that they might be driving down to the coffee estate the next day and without a second thought, I asked them if I could hop along. Ganga wasn’t 100% sure about the trip due to her health, but the next morning, she called me and told me that they were leaving in 2 hours. And my immediate response was “Yay! I’m coming too.”
We met at Coffee Mechanics again and started our journey from there. As soon as we got out of the Bangalore traffic, the scenery changed to the beautiful highway with a countryside view, and it was an absolute treat to my eyes. You can try to guess the hot topic of conversation between a coffee blogger and coffee estate owners, but let me assure you that even though it revolved around coffee for the majority of the time, we even had a great time getting to know each other better! We finally reached the Bhadrapura Coffee Estate when the sun was setting. Surrounded by the lush green coffee plantation, and with raindrops still fresh on the leaves, I was in love with the place already.
As soon as we got off the car, we were greeted by the traditional South Indian filter coffee and some homemade snacks. I could not have asked for a better way to end our road trip for the day!
PART 2: The Coffee Estate
In the morning, as soon as we were done with breakfast, Ganga and Pavan took lead to give me a tour of the plantation. My first lesson for the day was learning to identify the difference between the Arabica and Robusta plant: Robusta has a shallow root system and grows as big as a tree with bigger leaves, and is about 10 m tall. It flowers irregularly, taking about 10–11 months for cherries to ripen. The leaves of the Arabica are comparatively smaller in size, and it takes approximately seven years to mature fully.
As I was walking along the couple, hearing all their stories, something came to my mind and I realized that it took almost one whole generation to grow a plantation to a point where it starts to yield results. And that a tremendous amount of hard work and labor goes into maintaining an estate. It’s so easy for us to sit in a cafe and make quick judgments about our coffee, about whether it is good or bad, but we fail to remember that even to deliver those coffee beans to us, it takes a huge amount of effort in just growing them well in all the weather conditions, pruning them right, ensuring that the soil and water conditions are okay, and picking the right coffee cherries and at the right time. It is when we remember these things that we realize just how amazing the whole process actually is. What makes specialty coffee special is that each and every one of these steps is very well taken care of and that all the details are very carefully attended to.
As a coffee estate owner, one has to face a whole lot of challenges and in all the sectors, too. We all know how this is an intense labor industry and so sometimes, it becomes very difficult to find skilled labor. And then it requires a lot of supervision in order to maintain a good quality of the overall cup experience. Imagine all of this hard work and labor for that one cup of coffee we leisurely sip on in our favorite cafes or even at home!
Ganga and Pavan were very kind to tend to all of my doubts as I kept asked them all sorts of questions just like a curious child would! Here’s an example of one situation: My question to Pawan was; “I have heard a few people saying that the fruit trees that grow around the coffee plantation influence the tasting notes of the coffee. Is that right?” And this was his response as he chuckled, “Hahahaha, that’s an interesting question! Well, many people have claimed that the fruits within the coffee estate influence the tasting notes and they are selling their coffee based on that story and belief. But have a look around this place, we have jackfruit and some mangoes growing here, but we’ve never had those tasting notes in our coffee. For us, we don’t believe that the surrounding trees have a role in the tasting notes at all. But, there are certain elements that we believe do play an actual role in the tasting notes of coffee, such as what’s the origin of the coffee? What kind of soil are we providing? What sort of nourishment is it getting? What’s the region and what’s the elevation? There are many things attached to it and that’s what brings out the flavors in our coffee.”
As we walked back chatting, I told myself this, that there is so much to learn, and that this was such an important trip to make for any coffee lover. So if you think you are one of those who have been eagerly waiting to learn more about your coffee right from its root level, why don’t you join me on my next trip to the coffee farms? 🙂
Bean to Cup is an event we hold just for you to experience what I did and learn just as much about the coffee growing process and so head over there to sign up immediately!
Hey! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone!
Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!
Keep up the fantastic work!