Friday, 27 April 2012

Coffee in Coorg

The Flame Tree or GulMohur.
Coffee Blooms
While for some, Friday the 13th, may seem unlucky, here in Tamil Nadu it was celebration time. The  Tamil New Year was on Friday the 13th, this April. That meant, we had a long weekend. So we packed up our bags and headed off to Coorg, the Scotland of India. We found out that the best way to experience the place would be to stay at a homestay. With umpteen  homestays in Coorg, picking one  was really  hard. But I believe we finally chose the best - Spice Garden. It is a 125 year old, traditional house set in a coffee estate. Our hosts, Naveen and Raina were extremely warm and charming.  While Naveen is a wildlife expert, who educated us on the flora and fauna, Raina is an excellent cook. Both of them gave us a taste of the wonderful hospitality that Coorgis are well known for. 

A very Coorgi key-holder
Wild Flowers Sprout at Unexpected Spots
Hibiscus Profusion: A Very Common Sight
If you are a foodie, then Coorg is an amazing place to be.  For me, the breakfasts there, were the most memorable. On day one, we had Paputtu, which is a soft rice cake with lots of coconut in it. And the next morning we had Sannaas, which is  a kind of idli, only fluffier and tastier. Sannaas is made of rice, coconut and a little toddy. While my husband and I rounded off breakfast with wonderful strong Coorg coffee, my son had fresh, sweet milk from cows that grazed on pastures all day long. Even the eggs were from hens that roamed all over the place, pecking on worms and insects. Yet, the milk and eggs didn't have the  designer "organic, free-range" label that we see in cities. All the food - the vegetables and grain came from within the estate. To urban food activists, that would mean zero food miles. Here, however, eating local didn't seem anything out of the ordinary. "Organic", "Free range", "Local" may not be a part of the regular Coorgi vocabulary. But we realized that they are a way of life here.
This cow has all the grass to herself. City cows would really envy her.
"Free-range, organic, local" hens
Besides the food, the natural beauty of the place is magical. Just sitting in the verandah, I could spot so many new species of birds that I'd never seen before. The biggest surprise for me was the Malabar Whistling Thrush. I mistook its call for a man's whistle. By the end of my stay, I lost count of all the new birds I'd seen. Coorg is a bird lover's dream.
Swallows on the Lines
Spotted Dove in its Nest in the Verandah
A Delicate Rose: Notice the Leaves have been Chomped on
Some of the Many Varieties of Hibiscus at Spice Garden
The hills, the never ending stretches of coffee plantations, the fragrant air, the waterfalls, the endless variety of hibsicus flowers, the exotic spices, the vanilla, the wild roses, the forests, the fruit trees all made Coorg seem like paradise. Did Coorgis have any problems, I wondered. Of course they have problems. And they have REAL problems I soon discovered. Traffic jams and crowded buses don't count. Here, it is the danger of coming face to face with a tiger. The cab driver who drove us around told us, he had spotted tigers at least six times in the past year. The old tigers come to steal their cattle. The elephants destroy their fields. The solar fencing doesn't really deter them. Leopards eat up their pets. Poisonous Cobras and Vipers bite them in paddy fields. But as a brave warrior race, the Coorgis seem to take all these dangers in their stride.
Asafoetida (Hing): The resin is dried in the sun for use.
AllSpice: The all-in-one garam masala spice
A Typical Plantation, with solar fencing to ward off elephants: Here there's Coffee, Areca Nut and Cocoa (right in front)
Before I end this post, I must apologize to all my regular blog readers. It's been more than a month and I've not been able to visit any of your blogs. My own posts are now less frequent. It was only last year, I discovered the joys of blogging. And I hoped it would go on forever. But with my long hours at work, my blog time is severely restricted.  I don't mean to quit blogdom altogether, but I will be here less often. I hope my blog can make up for the lack in quantity with quality. Do keep visiting.
Giant Jackfruit Tree: Elephants love the fruit.
Singapore Cherries: Attracts birds and little boys. Even we couldn't resist eating all the ripe ones.
Small Green Mangoes: Kaddu Manga
A Wild Elephant with her Calf, at Naagarhole Reserve Forest