The thought of freshly brewed South Indian filter coffee, first thing in the morning, conjures up images of a steaming mug of dark brown coffee along with wonderful aroma. The taste buds gear up for the delicious brew. How many could resist such temptation?
I must confess here that the only knowledge I had about coffee is - The coffee powder is made out of coffee beans. That is the sum total of everything I knew on this subject. Decided it is time to repair the lacuna!
On our recent holiday to Madikeri, on the corner of a busy street in town, we came across Mercara Coffee Estate, a coffee shop which sells coffee beans and powder. We were told they also conduct a tour of the coffee estate for a nominal fee of Rs.150 per head, which includes a cup of hot coffee at the end of the tour!
We hired an autorikshaw for Rs.200 (to & fro), and off we went in search of coffee bushes / seeds / powder!
The coffee estate is about 4 kms. from the town of Madikeri; we reached it via winding hilly roads, past other coffee estates.
Through the gates, we entered the grounds and went to the Roasting complex which doubles up as office. One of the staff acted as a tour guide.
The terrain is sloping and hilly, on the western ghats. The trees (mostly big ones) originally in the forest, were retained and in between spaces, coffee bushes were planted. That way, ecological balance seems to be maintained.
The coffee trees or bushes live up to 80 years, it seems. The trees which we saw were 35 years old and they were barely 5 feet tall. After the seeds are harvested, the trees are trimmed down to the trunk.
Mercara Gold estate grows mainly two varies of coffee bushes, namely, Robesta and Arabica. They also grow Liberica coffee bushes, but far less than the above two.
The bushes were full of buds and blooms at this time of the year. They looked like the Jasmine buds.
It is important the buds bloom on time, and it can happen only with rain. The staff was looking forward to some rain, for the sake of the buds. If it does not rain, then they spray the bushes with water with the help of sprinkler system. The very next day, the buds open up and bloom. They are white in colour and have a fragrant smell, just like Jasmine.
As you pass through the region where there are coffee estates, you can smell the lovely fragrance of coffee blooms! I wondered how the same trees give out such diverse smells such as from the flowers and the seeds!
Once the pollination takes place, the flowers give way to Seeds. Initially the seeds are light orange in colour and slowly turn to red and then dark red, as they age.
Clusters of seeds are formed at the nodes. The seeds are either left on the bushes for drying or harvested and then dried in the sun.
In the front yard, the coffee seeds were spread for drying. Since it looked like rain, they started covering them with plastic sheets.
Once the seeds are dry, they are put through this machine to separate the husk from the kernels. At Mercara, they do the drying in house. There are also drying units who do this.
The kernels are light greenish brown in colour.
They are put through the roasting machine; 12.5 kgs of coffee beans are roasted for 40 -45 min. After roasting the beans become dark brown in colour and that is when the aroma of coffee comes out.
The beans are ground and packaged as per the specifications. Mercara Gold Estate makes 100% pure coffee, and also coffee powder having 10%, 20%, 30% chicory. I was told, higher the chicory content stronger the coffee!
At the end of the tour, they gave us hot 100% pure coffee and it was heavenly. I am not a coffee drinker but the taste remained with me even after days!
If you are in Madikeri, go and see Mercara Gold Estate and treat yourself to some wonderful filter coffee!