Raindrops are falling on my head…and I am having coffee on the road to Chikmagalur – where coffee was first grown in India. About 350 years when a seer is believed to have smuggled a few seeds from Mecca in Arabia.
For the first time in weeks, the beautiful world I was in turned even more so. I was on winding mountain roads from Sringeri to Chikmagalur when a light rain started. At that twilight hour, surrounded by forests and coffee estates, in mountain country with its cool, crisp air – come on, what more can you ask for?
A nice cup of coffee would be perfect – made the way it should be. I was in coffee country, all ready to be spoilt with the best.
Only it never came. I stopped at Badra Stop, located at the gates of a coffee estate, serving coffee and snacks. They made me a filter coffee – it was hot, but nothing to write home about. I would not know, but coffee country was all set to disappoint me.
All the way to Chikmagalur and further on to Coorg, and even Wayanad in Kerala, I would be surrounded by coffee farms but no one was serving true coffee. My options were mostly instant Nescafe and Bru. Ughhhh! I don’t have that stuff anymore anywhere.
Chikmagalur is also the headquarters of the national coffee chain, Café Coffee Day. Not known for great espressos, I was expecting them to at least have a boutique outlet at their home. Turned out to be worse coffee than what they usually make.
Just like wine country, why can’t these coffee estates have outlets open for visitors to taste what they have to offer? Prepared as coffee should be. And brand their respective coffees just like wines? They could well move up the value chain than sitting at the commodity end of the market. I think these guys are losing out on an opportunity here.
Now note this: Coffee grown in south India is sent to outlets in Delhi where I buy the beans, get them ground, pack in my bags, and come back down south where it was originally grown and use it to prepare coffee for myself with a French Press in my hotel room. Why doesn’t someone wake up and smell the (coffee) opportunity?
I missed the coffee blossom season by just a few days – would have been lovely to see estates full of those white flowers. But I still spotted a few in farms around Chikmagalur and Coorg.
But the whole countryside is one you would want to build a cottage and spend the rest of your life in. Excellent weather all year round, serene and quiet, nice people to have as your neighbours, nature at its wondrous best – welcome to Chikmagalur.
Chikmagalur town itself is quite a mess – pity considering the beautiful countryside around. I reached late evening, checked into a poorly maintained mid-budget hotel, had some bad meals and worse coffee and slept. And was off first thing in the morning to Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary.
Ajay Jain is currently on the Great Arabian Sea Drive, starting from Delhi and following the coastline all the way from Gujarat down to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Follow all updates on:
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