Come December and all the green coffee plantations of Kodagu or Coorg are abuzz with activity. The red cherries are waiting to be picked, pulped and processed as the migrant labour from the neighbouring villages pour into the district.


Coffee Plantation


Kodagu accounts for over 50 per cent of coffee produced in Karnataka and 40 per cent in the country. Coffee here is broadly classified into two varieties – Arabica and Robusta and the picking season begins with Arabica. If you happen to be in North Coorg, what is considered traditionally Arabica territory, you will find the pickers plucking the ripe cherries from the plants, as early as 7.00 a.m. South Coorg, though not left behind, is traditionally a Robusta stronghold and the season here starts a month later. The picking season for coffee lasts until late February after which pepper takes over.


Coffee Cherries


A day in a plantation during picking season starts early, with labourers beginning to collect ripe cherries in their bags. This continues throughout the day as only the ripe cherries are picked. The coffee beans eventually have to be removed from the cherry and dried before they are extracted. In one method, the cherries are put in a pulping machine where it is washed and the pulp removed. The washed coffee is later spread over the drying yard and are left to dry. Bean so obtained is called parchment coffee and it is ready to be further processed. In some plantations where the pulper is absent, you get unwashed or cherry coffee that is pulped and dried as a whole.


Workers with plucked coffee cherries


As you sip that hot brew, it is interesting to note these various processes the bean goes through before it reaches you as the powder you know, ready to transubstantiate into a Mocha or a Latte or an Espresso.