Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Coffee Works

Coffee plant
This is coffee when it first starts – up in the beautiful and verdant Western Ghats of India, almost pristine, in harmony with its biodiversity, its rivers, its wildlife, its trees and  hills, sacred  groves, (Devara Kaadu) local deities and farmers. Under a high canopy of shade trees, coffee in India grows gloriously alongside pepper, cardamom, oranges and arecenut.

The coffee flower smells nothing like what it taste - the flowering of the coffee plant, gives a sweet fragrance, intoxicating the entire landscape.The blossom of the coffee plant transforms the landscape to appear like a white, fragrant laden sheet – its smell sweet, the air  gentle. This rousing lasts ,sadly, for just a few days before the coffee flower matures to become the  coffee seed and ready to be picked.

Coffee blossom
She is then gently handpicked and and mostly sun dried . Sometimes sent to a local Curing Works. Once dried, she is put into sacks and stored -usually in the store room of the residence of the coffee grower. She awaits the agent.
Coffee grows only in tropical countries and grown mostly by small farmers as a cash crop. Due to the predominance of small coffee growers in India, (according to The Coffee Board of India almost  98% of coffee is grown by marginalized and small farmers) , coffee is sold through agents – this buying and selling happens at the “gate”. The agent offers a price and farmer takes what he gets – because some commodity trader sitting in a glass office has decided the price of this precious bean.

A coffee farmer sun drying his coffee

Coffee seeds  are  dried, roasted and powdered to make coffee powder.Sometimes the coffee goes to towns and cities for further trade and household consumption- as filter coffee, in South India, or as ghastly instant coffee that is produced by the likes of Nestle.Some find their way into cafés to become  the classic espresso, or  cappuccino or other high street coffees - for which there are millions of consumers who are willing to pay a couple of dollars a pop. In the multibillion coffee industry, the profits go mainly to the shippers, the roasters and the retailers.

 But if you are a traditional coffee drinker and relish your coffee, you avoid the Starbucks and Café Coffee Days - instead you would go to an unpretentious hole in the wall –  "Gayathri Coffee Works" for   example- and buy premium Arabica coffee, freshly grounded for about Rs. 360 a kilo.

Gayathri Coffee Works, Mysore