COORG AND COFFEE
Coffee and Coorg have a strong bond since the district is the largest producer of coffee in the country. The coffee bean is supposed to have been discovered in Arabia, presentday Yemen, where some goats after feasting on berries of a dark leaved shrub, were found dancing by their goat herd Kaldi ! Botanical evidence suggests that coffee Arabica originated in Ethopia and was brought from there by traders to Yemen. Once it spread from religious houses to coffee houses, people found it irresistible!
Coffee is a hardy plant. It pollinates itself and the variations in beans are due to different soil, moisture and climate. A Muslim pilgrim from India, Baba Budan brought, according to legend, seven seeds to his cave, in the hills of Chikmagalur, where it flourished. The descendants of the seven seeds spread through India. The Dutch carried it to Java. Louis XIV of France was an ardent coffee drinker, and the Dutch got him a tree from Mocha in Yemen, which was nurtured in greenhouses in France, and spawned billions of Arabica trees including those in Central and South America, the Caribbean Brazil and Mexico. From Brazil a coffee seed was introduced to Kenya and Tanganyika , a short distance from its original home in Ethiopia. There is an interesting story of how the Brazilian emperor was keen to enter the coffee market and sent his representative Don Francisco to obtain the seed from the French who were not keen to part with their precious coffee seeds. The suave Francisco, charmed the French Governor’s wife who sent him all the seeds he needed in a bouquet of flowers! That bouquet was responsible for Brazils flourishing coffee industry.
How does one identify good coffee? Its popularity has made individuals more discerning. Roasting and the quality of beans, probably influence taste, the most Darker roasted beans generally give you stronger coffee (though there are exceptions to the rule ) with a bittersweet taste. The roasting brings out the coffee essence within the bean, and every coffee connoisseur, has his own favourite blend and flavour. Americans drink larger cups of a watered down brew, Europeans prefer smaller cups of a richer blend.
In South India coffee is a way of life! Many households wake up to the smell of freshly ground and brewed coffee, a strong decoction, that has been filtered, and made perfect with boiling hot whole milk added, and sugared sparingly, to retain that hint of bitterness. It gives you a head-start and alertness, which is legendary!
In Coorg, strangely enough the popular beverage is tea. The English planted acres of coffee but left us with a fondness for English tea .It is difficult to come by a good cup of coffee in a district which is famous for its coffee plantations. I sometimes wonder why the Coffee Board never thought of a coffee house in Coorg or a smart entrepreneur has not built a whole experience around coffee in the district – a visit to a coffee estate, the birds, the flora, the fauna! There could be coffee based buffets, beauty treatments with coffee, coffee inspired clothing, the list is endless ! Like the “Tea houses” in Japan, we need coffee houses in Coorg, so that visitors can carry home not just happy memories but coffee beans and filters to brew their own Coorg coffee, and put it on the coffee map of the world in addition to “Monsoon Malabar”, or “Mysore Nuggets” !