1 December 2019

India the next installment

Day 2 – Early start, out the door at 8am, wellies on and off coffee picking with Komal, at the main, Mooleh Manay estate. This is at 1000m altitude and where they grow arabica, liberica and pepper. The liberica is really tall and is used as a boundary plant to mark the edge of the farms, this is another species of coffee which is different to robusta and arabica, and is hard to get hold of, we are hoping to roast a small amount of it. Working a little bit with the pickers and seeing exactly how the coffee needs picking, you can really start to see why these coffees are more expensive (if they are done properly). Only the completely ripe cherries should be picked, after a bit of picking, a lot of walking, and a lot more talking, we headed back to the main house for breakfast.
The estate manager Thimmiah and his wife Meghna joined us for breakfast, where we learnt a lot more about the difficulties of growing coffee. He’s been in coffee all his life and his family is 4th generation coffee plantation owners. Breakfast of the gods finished, and we’re off to Madikeri, this is the largest town in the district. It is an old British hill station with a fort, the Brits apparently loved it here because the climate is cooler. We checked out a couple of tiny roaster/coffee shops and amongst all the chaos of this tiny town was a coffee emporium that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Kensington, very modern, selling speciality coffee beans and ground, and also making coffee. We got chatting to the owner Narendra, where we were plied with numerous different filter coffees and espressos, from 100% robusta to Monsoon Malabar and everything in between, we were totally coffeed out, and we needed food urgently. Akshay and Komal took us to a great little local restaurant called Coorg Cuisine, the food was sensational, especially the pork.
Time to head back to check on todays harvest, after multiple near misses on the mountain roads, we arrived, miraculously in one piece, I empathise with Akshay, he has a really difficult job, some of the pickers did it as he wanted, with a high percentage of ripe cherries, unfortunately not all the pickers were as good, and it had to be sorted through taking a lot of time taking the half yellow cherries out.
While Komal worked on the new raised beds (another experiment for drying the natural coffees) we went off with Akshay to check on yesterday’s fermentation and see how it’s coming along. So far so good, water testing done, and then we checked out the processing at the wet mill (photos). We came back to the coffee on the raised beds for drying, and another experiment begins. Time for another bonfire.
Interesting things we’ve found out since we’ve been here: Most of the local farmers, do not like Fairtrade, reasons being – cost to join, admin, interference, access to company books etc. also the price difference is not worth the hassle.
On average a coffee picker is expected to pick 40-60kg of cherries a day, with the selective naturals, it comes down to 10-15kg of cherries a day, but as the season progresses, this should increase to between 30-40kg.
In some countries the farmers dehull their own coffee beans, in India, no farmers dehull because tax is only levied after dehulling.