Southern India Photo Tour
Imagine an exquisitely manicured British garden interjected onto the floor of a lush high-canopied jungle. You could be conjuring a typical Indian coffee estate. This is the almost virtual-world impression we received in our recent coffee pilgrimage to the fabulous coffee growing districts of Mysore, Coorg, Hassan, and Chikmagalur in India's heavenly southern state of Karnataka.
A jungle canopy shades coffee trees on a coffee estate in India

Below, Coffees growing in the shade of the forest canopy.

Coffee plants below taller hardwood trees of the jungle canopy

In 2001, Michael Beech, founder of Raven's Brew, and John Gant of MasterRoaster were honored to travel to India as invited guests of the Coffee Board of India.

Michael Beech and John Gant of Master Roaster compare notes while cupping coffees

Michael and John consulted and conferred with members of the board, and spent two days cupping and writing cupping reports in cupping labs. Then they were graced all out of proportion with a 9 day tour of coffee and tea estates throughout a paradise called the Western Ghat Mountains.
Michael Beech cupping coffee while consulting with the Coffee Board of India

India's Coffee Lab staff
Above, Sunalini Menon (2nd from right) and
her Coffee Lab staff

This is the land of the wizards of coffee cultivation. It is the land of true, unqualified, shade grown coffee. 100 percent of India's coffee, arabica and robusta, is shade grown. The dozens of species of shade trees commonly found on coffee estates include rosewood, mahogany, teak, species of fig, sandalwood and cedar. These trees provide habitat to 70-80 species of birds and supply an average 10 tons per hectare of leaves and prunings for mulch.

Ripe coffee cherries in the jungles of India
Above, lucious ripe coffee cherries
in a lush jungle setting.

Agro-chemicals are used minimally in India. Much of Indian coffee is organic by default; there is a growing certified organic coffee industry. Feeding these worms (right) is an average 10 tons per hectare of leaves, etc. falling to the ground per year equaling 195 kilograms of nitrogen, 110 kg phosphorous, and 160 kg potash. Lagooning is mandatory along with many other water protection practices.

An Indian coffee cultivar shows off some earth worms from their organic soils in which they grow coffee

coffee cherries and peppers
Above, ripe coffee cherries
with pepper corns

The coffee regions are also India's menagerie: wild elephant, boar, deer, monkeys, cobra, tigers, etc. were constantly evident. India's coffee regions are also spice worlds, where intercropping is common. Pepper vines, cardomom, ginger, chiles, jack fruit, betel nut, coconut, etc. are ubiquitous throughout the coffee plantations.

Right, an Indian "beetle bucket" traps harmful stem boring beetles without using pesticides.

Environmentally friendly beetle traps are deployed to catch harmful stem boring beetles

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Photos by Lezli Morgan and Michael Beech
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