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Made in Coorg – a story of Indian coffee

Coorg is the primary growing district for India’s fledgling coffee industry. The rural economy in India is dominated by tea and cotton, with the coffee industry practically unknown only producing 2% of the world’s annual output. Coorg produces 80% of India’s coffee, which is either sold as a premium speciality coffee in the US and Europe, or blended and made into instant. Most of the plantations are small operations run by families that live and work on site, that make a very modest living.

The area is also known as Kodagu and is the native home of the tribal Kodava people who now constitute only 20% of the population, the majority of whom work on the plantations. For many years the region was a separate state, until it became part of Karnataka in 1956. During the Raj it was controlled separately by the British, as the area has produced the coffee and spices used across India for many years.

These photos show the story of the coffee from the plantations from picking to drying, harvesting and processing for export, plus the annual Huttari celebrations that mark the start of the harvest.Kalluru is an independently run farm by Kumar and his family about 30 miles out of Madikeri (the capital of Coorg). His family acquired the land 15 years ago and have lived there ever since. At present Kumar, his wife, brother and parents live and work there as their children are away studying. Their main crop is coffee, most of which is sold and distributed in the local area. Ganesh coffee in Madikeri roasts and sells small amounts of coffee from local growers, as little as 1kg at a time. Jyothi estate is a larger co-operative plantation run by G.N Ramachandra (Rao) in Appangala, 5 miles from Madikeri. The plantation also grows spices but their main crop is coffee for export, through TVC – Travakor Coffee Company, one of the many processing plants in Coorg.

The price of land in Coorg is currently rising due to the rapid growth of the Indian economy and increasing demand for specialist crops for export. The soil is famous for its fertility as a wide variety of crops grow easily, most notably coffee, but also rice, black pepper and cardamoms. In recent years there’s been a greatly increased demand for land in the area, both for developing large plantations and building ecotourism retreats. The next few years is likely to be a time of significant change for Coorg.

More by this author on his own website.

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