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December 30, 2017

Checking out the Classic Coffee trail

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:24 PM

A few weekend’s ago I got the opportunity to go for ‘The Classic Coffee Trail’ organized by the wonderful folks over at ‘Food Lovers’. Now some of you might be wondering who someone who doesn’t really like drinking coffee would go for an event about coffee. I went for two main reasons:

* I love to learn and this looked like a great opportunity to learn about coffee and expand my horizons
* It was highly recommended by Sachin and Diana who were also going to the event.

We started the trip by waking up at 4:30am on Saturday so that we could leave by 5:30am. This was especially painful as I had an early morning on Friday as well (woke up at 3am) as I had a day long work trip to Chennai. But sleep is no match for Red bull followed by a shower. So by the time Sachin and Diana were at my place I was wide awake and ready to roll. The drive down to Sakleshpur was pretty scenic and uneventful for the most part. Sachin and Diana alternated driving while me and Jani relaxed in the back. At first I managed to stay awake but after a point the red bull effect wore off and apparently I had a full conversation with Sachin while being about 90% asleep. I am not sure what is more scary, the fact that I could have a full intelligent conversation while sleeping or that Sachin was sleepy enough that he didn’t realize that I was pretty much talking in my sleep.

We made good time and got to the Harley Estate by 11 or so where we were met by Kripal from Food Lovers who had organized the event. I must say that Kripal and his team made every effort to make our trip smooth and as enjoyable as possible starting with the phone calls before the trip to ensure we knew the route and continuing during the event with the attention to detail. While waiting for the rest of the attendees to arrive we got to meet Chandini D. Maneesh and Tapaswini Purnesh who were our hosts for the weekend. Both sisters are very friendly & knowledgeable about coffee. Even though I am not a coffee drinker I was tempted to start after listening to the both of them talking about Coffee with such energy and enthusiasm.

We were staying in ‘Whispering Tree’ that was a good 10 mins jeep ride from the entrance of the estate. The cottage is nestled in the forest and at night some of the folks heard animals in the forest and the local farmers had to constantly make noise to prevent wild boar from destroying their crops. Right outside the cottage there was a hammock which looked very inviting so I immediately laid claim to it before anyone else could beat me to it. After a few minutes of relaxation I suddenly found out why the hammock was so conveniently empty. Turns out that there was a nest of fire ants on one of the trees to which the hammock was tied and they loved the opportunity to take a bite out of me. Infact they took several bites before I managed to get them all off me. But I did get revenge on the ants finally as there is a local dish that is made out of ground ants and it was served to us the next day for breakfast. Even though I didn’t eat it it gave me great pleasure to watch others eating the ants. 🙂


Jeep Ride to the cottage


Relaxing on the non-ant infested hammock

After we relaxed for a bit it was time for Lunch which was served in a lush meadow with a stream running alongside it. A small waterfall a few hundred feet away was tempting me to go for a swim but since we had all neglected to bring swimsuits we had to make do with just putting our feet in the water which was nice and cold. In all I thought that this place would be amazing to camp in and I was pleased to find out that they do allow folks to pitch tents in the area and have a camp out. The food was very tasty and went very well with the lovely wine we had. All too soon the lunch was over and we started the coffee tour, which started with a coffee tasting where we tasted the same coffee prepared using 3 different methods and it was unbelievable how much difference the brewing method makes in the final taste of the drink. I learned more about coffee brewing in one hour than I had in the past 36 years of my life.



Enjoying cooling down in a cold stream of water


Lunch at the Gazebo


Group Photo at the beginning of the tour (after lunch) [PC: Food Lovers]

Once the tasting was done we walked over to the main bean processing unit where the day’s collection of beans was ready to be processed. Each bean picker weighed their day’s pickings and then dumped them in this pit that led to a gigantic pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean. After the skin and pulp were separated they are separated by weight by passing them through water channels where the lighter beans float and the heaver ones sink. They are then passed through a series of rotating drums to separate the beans by size after than they are dried by spreading them on drying tables for a few days and then finally sun dried on the floor. To prevent spoilage the beans are turned regularly by big rakes and at evening just as the sun goes down they are collected into a massive pile and covered with tarp to avoid dew. This is required because it gets pretty cold at night and there is dew everywhere which is quite bad for coffee beans.

After the tour, we sat around and chatted for a little while enjoying some great snacks and coffee (obviously). Once everyone was done we went back to our cottages to rest and prepare for dinner. Dinner started with a bonfire, barbecue and some great wine. (It wasn’t just me who said that, Sachin liked it as well and he’s the expert 🙂 ). The food was simple but quite tasty. We spent a couple of hours just talking about random stuff and enjoyed being outsite without worrying about work/pollution etc. Though some of the folks were worried about the night life coming to say hi to us. Fortunately nothing decided to come say hello and all too soon it was time for us to call it a night so we crashed.


Group Pic at Dinner [PC: Food Lovers]

The next day started really early as we were scheduled for a plantation walk. I seriously considered sleeping in and letting others go on without me but I am glad I didn’t since the walk was a lot of fun. We got to watch the plantation workers pluck the berries and tasted the raw berry which was surprisingly sweet. Since the Harley Estate follows the selective harvesting method they only pick the ripe cherries from the trees which as you can imagine is a pretty labor intensive process. The walk was not very taxing and since it wasn’t rainy season we even managed to avoid leeches which was a big plus (I am not a fan but Jani finds them to be ‘sexy’ for some reason).


Learning about Coffee picking

Post the walk we were all pretty hungry and fell upon the breakfast like starving people. Me and Jani strategically seated ourselves so that the servers had to pass us everytime they came up with food so we had the first pick of the food. 🙂 This ensured that we were done with breakfast while others were still waiting for food and we spent the time after we were done stuffing our faces just sitting in the sun relaxing.


Look at the pretty flowers (and us)


Enjoying early morning coffee in the sun

Finally everyone was done with breakfast and it was time for us to bid farewell to each other and with a heavy heart we packed up our bags and started the long drive back. The drive back was mostly uneventful and we reached Bangalore without any issues and promptly got stuck in traffic.

If you ever want to combine a relaxed trip with learning about coffee I highly recommend this place. Check it out if you have the time.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

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