India is the second most populated country in the world. If tomorrow every Indian drinks even one cup of coffee a day, India’s production would be sufficient to meet the country’s needs.
Photo 1: The traffic is dense in the economic capital and circulation is sometimes very difficult.
Like most major cities in Asia, Bangalore is experiencing major economic growth. This leads to population growth and traffic congestion in the city. That is why the metro was put in place in 2011 and today the lines cover 42.3 kilometres and by 2025 the lines will cover 123 kilometres.
Coffee consumption in India is increasing slightly and specialty coffee is gradually developing in the big cities. The problem of the declining price of coffee is pushing producers and industry players to find ways to increase the consumption of coffee in India in order to obtain better returns on their sales. Importing coffee is very expensive (110% taxes on imported green coffee, yes it is impressive) and the only way to meet the needs of consumers is to sell locally produced coffee.
This state of southern India is the 7th largest region of India with 191,791 km2 which is slightly larger than the size of Syria. This region alone produces 2/3 of the country’s total production in the three sub-regions of Hassan, Chikmangaluru and Kodagu. It was in this region that we decided to discover the production of coffee in India and it is not surprising that we visited different coffee plantations.
Photo 2: The region of Karnataka is situated on south-west of India and Bangalore is its capital.
Photo 3: Peacocks are numerous in this area; they live in harmony with the coffee trees so it is not uncommon to come across them when you walk in the coffee plantations.
The Karnataka region is huge and the terroirs numerous. The first terroir we visited was the one in Hoysala with the visit of Hoysala Coffee and Spices in the two coffee plantations of the two producers we met. Our first surprise was to see for the first time a coffee plantation bringing together the three great coffee species, arabica, robusta and liberica. Coffee grows in the forest with many varieties of trees and animal species. It is this immense biodiversity that surprises. Coffee plantations are very large but the forest is preserved. Of course shade is essential for coffee production especially in this region because temperatures are very high. The phenomenon is growing year after year. Hoysala farmers therefore use as little chemicals as possible for coffee production to preserve soil and water. Like the other coffee plantations in the area, they use their own water reservoir, pump and irrigation systems. Here, solar panels are used to pump water from the holding tank. The rainy season is intense and the dry season is extreme. It is therefore necessary to adapt by bringing water artificially during the dry season. Systems are put in place by producers to allow profitable coffee production.
Video 1: Our first plantation seen from the sky with Hoysala coffee producers.
Photo 4: The Mountains of Karnataka have an average altitude of 900 m and the coffee plantations are always shadowed by various varieties of trees.
The adventure continues in India with the visit of another coffee plantation. Similar to the previous one, it has the particularity of growing at higher altitude on a slightly more mountainous terrain. The discovery of this coffee plantation was first done in a coffee shop. Indeed, Third Wave Coffee offered coffee from MS Organic. The roaster then gave us the contact of the producer we had the chance to meet in Bangalore before going to his plantation. We did what’s called from cup to farm, where we started with a cup of coffee and then went to where it came from. So there is an organic plot in the coffee plantation. Balanoor Coffee has also diversified its plantation by producing tea, wood, pepper and many other plants that nature offers us. You can visit the coffee plantation and also enjoy a beautiful sunrise and sunset.
When you are travelling abroad, one of the best ways to find producers is to go to the selling point and ask directly where the coffee comes from. The best places for this are the coffee shop and roasting of course.
Let’s talk about Chikmagaluru! This city is best known for the export of coffee; it is from here that the majority of coffee undergoes the last stage of its processing and prepared for export. There are a few dozen "curing work" or coffee making stations that share the export of coffee from the majority of the Karnataka region.
Video 2: Balanoor Coffee Plantation seen from the sky with its magnificent coffee trees, tea trees and centuries-old trees.
Photo 5: Elephants are both a solution and a problem; we use them to drive other elephants out of coffee plantations to save coffee trees and workers' lives
Do you know elephants? How about elephants in coffee plantations? It was a surprise when we arrived at the first coffee plantation of Tata coffee where we met wild elephants in the middle of the robusta plantation. The story with elephants will be discussed in more detail in a forthcoming blog article on animals and coffee.
Tata Group is one of the largest companies in the world, so it was interesting to see how this company works. It is not without great surprise that the organization is hierarchical and that the rules are put in place from the beginning; whether for security or communication. The stay was short but interesting. We spoke with managers and directors to better understand the specialty coffee market in India. They are therefore increasingly involved in coffee consumption in India. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, if India starts to consume its own coffee, there will be no more work for exporters because production will be sufficient to satisfy consumption. You can admire beautiful scenery along the cafe road to Coorg. Tata coffee has no less than 8,000 hectares of coffee plantations. You might as well say that it would take a century to visit everything on foot!
Video 3: Tata coffee seen from the sky filmed with a Mavic air drone from DJI.
The adventure in Asia ends with this beautiful country where coffee production has reached its potential but consumption is only in its infancy. We will see the evolution of the coffee sector in the coming months and years in terms of market prices and domestic consumption. One thing is certain: India has much more to offer than we think. By encouraging specialty coffee, producers could finally reveal their true potential by offering innovative and revealing coffees from a unique terroirs. Nowadays, the coffee shops of Karnataka are less considered. Their coffees will, of course, be less complex than coffee of higher altitude but their history is rich, very old and their unique culture to preserve. Our future in coffee will also depend on the supply of coffee from many origins. India is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, how will we ensure a sustainable future in India’s coffee industry? Perhaps the solution will still be to spend more in live shopping and in marketing these unique coffees. What reassures us is that video is still the most effective means of communication and producers have something to say to consumers. Our next episode on India will evoke in more detail the heritage of coffee producers in this region through their discourses. Meanwhile, have good coffee and good day to you, dear readers.
“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar