4:30am start followed by a long drive to the curing works, 35KM, but believe it or not, this takes 2 and a half hours, this tells you all you need to know about the roads in India. The route took us through a stunning national park of beautiful ancient jungle, where we spotted 2 elephants, 2 bison, samba deer, lots of spotted deer and a family of wild boar, the place was truly magnificent and a dinosaur would look at home here. We then decided to take a detour and go on a safari tour, this was a whole other adventure, a windowless bus, zero suspension, over the most unbelievably rugged dirt roads you can imagine, this was to go deep into the jungle and hopefully spot interesting wild animals, we should have saved our rupees, because all we saw were more spotted dear, some mongooses, and a big lizard, no tigers today! The elephants and bison must have gone back to bed. We finally got back, our innards will never be the same, and headed off to the curing works.
The curing works was a step back in time, built in 1873 by the British. We were taken on a tour by the marketing and curing manager Nanaiah, and the general manager Rukmini. This is where coffee is brought to be processed, into the final green beans that we’re familiar with, checked, and bagged, ready for export, or sold into the local market, with less emphasis on checking. The cost of the whole process including hand sorting for the export market, works out at 3.2p per kilo, on average, 50KG of dry, unprocessed coffee in, equals 40KG out, the removed husk, dust and stones are also packed, so the grower can tell that nothing has been siphoned off, this is now a government control board operation, and is run by a cooperative.
Interestingly, the manager told us before 1994/95 there was a government set price for coffee and exporting was not allowed, it was then liberalised, and the price was set by the market. This was beneficial to some growers who were keen on growing good quality coffee, and disadvantaging the smaller, lower quality growers, as previously, they were paid the same, regardless of the quality of the crop. Now the quality of the crop, really matters.