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Monday 29th Feb

Arriving around 4 am local time at Bangalore Airport not knowing what to expect but absolutely knackered after having been out to a Burns Night Supper the night before and consistently having just 2h broken sleep in 24hours! The Indian sun started to wake and the warmth of the day building as we left the airport heading towards the accommodation for the next 3 nights. The Whitefield district of Bangalore is about an hour’s drive from the airport, the route we took was bumpy, dusty, noisy, busy, cows & dogs just wandering everywhere, people on the streets and roadside, tuck – tucks whizzing about, horns (inc our driver) being beeped constantly. It was chaos and this was 5am!!

The other guys and I which are on the 10-day adventure check in to the hotel and promptly fell asleep for a 2.5h cat nap before being submerged into the world of Indian coffee.

Our Hosts for the duration are ECOM, a family-owned trader primarily in Coffee, Cotton and Cacao and a global presence in over 40 countries.



The other guys and I which are on the 10-day adventure check in to the hotel and promptly fell asleep for a 2.5h cat nap before being submerged into the world of Indian coffee.

Our Hosts for the duration are ECOM, a family-owned trader primarily in Coffee, Cotton and Cacao and a global presence in over 40 countries.

My idea of a trader is someone who sits and shouts and a screen full of moving numbers all day, I was wrong in this case  – ECOM works directly with the farmers and smallholdings to empower them to optimize productivity and profitability with the aim to improve livelihoods, improve working conditions, remove poverty, and manage the global environmental changes. Incredible transparency.

Over lunch we cupped some wonderful coffees – mostly Robusta, but I started to get a sense of what the next week or so will hold for us.

Cupping is a way to taste, evaluate, and compare coffee’s which is crucial to ensuring both the coffee we get at Hessian is the way it should be, but also from the grower’s perspective to encourage good practices linking in with ECOMs missions.

An afternoon visit to the Shivoham Shiva Temple was enjoyed as we acclimatized to the new time zones. Shiva being the God of destruction in Hinduism with Brahma (the creator) and Vishnu the preserver in the beliefs. This Shiva temple stood 20m tall.

It was going to be a full 10 days of info gathering, new experiences, sights, smells, and sounds – Cannot wait!

Tuesday 30th. 

After a hearty breakfast of curry (not kidding) we jumped into the 4 cars that would be our personal transportation for the trip and headed into Bangalore to meet with the Indian Coffee Board.  The Coffee Board, again like the ethos at ECOM, are focused on R&D, Entrepreneurship, Employment, Ecology, Livelihoods & transparency. The building is over 5 floors with state-of-the-art coffee labs including electronic tongues and noses, cupping rooms, classrooms, barista training rooms and co-working space to networks and drive coffee education.

Amazing place where we cupped once again some coffee’s which included the world-famous Monsoon Malabar. A process discovered by accident in the 16th century when a ship containing coffee spent too long at sea and was exposed to the wild conditions, salty moisture, and winds. The beans changed colour to a lighter beige, swelled to a larger size and became fuller, smoother, and softer but giving a bold, punchy coffee on the pallet. Nowadays the beans are processed as normal then left in open warehouses on the Malabar coast for 6 months to create the taste profile.

After a buffet lunch of curry, we met Sunalini Menon for a coffee at her research office. Sunalini is known around the globe as India’s first lady of coffee, and what an honour it was meeting her. Sunalini is a pioneer of all things coffee and has been for nearly 40 years with experience within Indian and international markets.  Her skills in coffee evaluation are respected and recognised the world over, she is President of Coffeelab Ltd, a Lecturer at The University del Caffe de Trieste, Director on the Advisory Committee of the ‘Alliance for Coffee Excellence’, on the Board of Trustees of the ‘Coffee Quality Institute’ of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, has a postgraduate in Food Technology from the University of Madras, and has held positions of increasing responsibility at the Coffee Board of India from 1972 to 1995. Along with all this Sunalini has been recognised with awards and accolades but most notable the “First Lady Achievers Award” for being Asia’s First Professional Woman Coffee Taster from the President of India.
She has done and continues to be such a pioneer in promoting women within the industry. What a privilege it was having a cuppa and a chat. 



Wednesday 31st 

Bit of a traveling day. Sad to be leaving Bangalore and its population of 14 million people which were mostly out walking, riding scooters & driving tuck-tucks wherever we went, but coffee does not grow in city centres! We had a 5/6-hour drive southwest to Kushalnagar where we would be within slurping distance of a coffee plantation.

Kushalnagar is the main city within the Karnataka region and close to where coffee was first cultivated. It said that Saint Bada Budan smuggled 7 arabica seeds from Mecca in c.1670 and planted them in his back garden on the Chikkamagaluru hills!

We managed a stop off whilst en-route to Kushalnagar, with a tour at the world-famous Mysore Palace in Mysore. This is currently the residence of the Indian Royal Family who still live in 60% of the building. A respectful, shoes off place, full of temples. Just awesome!




Thursday 1st Feb 

Today we get to see what it’s all about. Whilst classrooms and board rooms are important this is what we came for.

Our hosts, ECOM, have a few sorting mills around India, this is the main one located in Karnataka covering the Hassan, Coorg & Chikmagalur growing areas & with 99% of India’s coffee growers being small holdings, facilities like this are fundamental to the communities and the industries.

The farmers can concentrate on growing, picking & drying the coffee, this ” Natural Coffee” is then sent to the ECOM mill for dry hulling which is the process of removing the outer layers (parchment) sorting into grade & weight size, quality control cupping, purchasing from the estate’s then onwards sales and shipping. ECOM will be checking that what comes in is in fact what the farmer is saying it is, for example they will not take it if it has too much moisture or too much debris within the coffee. This relationship ensures the farmers are working hard on delivering a quality product and getting the best return. Amazing to see the lorries arriving full of freshly picked beans still within the cherries, being weighed & unloaded, to follow their process through the machines and pop out the other side as “Green” coffee, ready for roasting – Awesome.

After a coffee cupping session and some lunch (curry) we headed towards an afternoon at the Nirmal Plantation, owned by Mrs Racheal Sebastian & her family.

WOW, just WOW! 6,000 miles from Hertfordshire & 833m above sea level, I am on a 25-hectare, rainforest alliance certified farm in India. Speechless!!

Racheal’s is 5th generation, and now passing the farm management onto her daughter,  they produce a Natural Sun-Dried Robusta Cherry, which is shade grown under a 3-tier canopy, then patio dried. Drying the coffee removes moisture from the seed (bean) if it’s too wet the roasting process will not be effective and make a bad coffee. Ideally, we are looking at 12% moisture so potentially up to a week on a patio, being turned manually to ensure overall coverage. (ECOM would reject coffee if it’s too moist or dry)

Elephants and Monkeys are quite a common sight in the area, but I unfortunately did not have the privilege, however I did see footage of a recent elephant helping himself to some fruit in the garden of the estate owners!!

Seeing the Robusta trees, having a go at strip picking, seeing the wildlife, meeting the workers, hearing the wildlife is an eye-opener and a privilege. This is just day one at a plantation!!

Friday 2nd Feb. 

After a curry buffet for breakfast, & still in the beautiful Coorg area and a second farm visit working with ECOM.

The Vanadurgi estate sits 958 metres above sea level, somewhat higher than fields yesterday, sitting on an area of 9.5 hectares, this family farm is owned and managed by Mr Thammaih and his son.

Mostly Robusta on this farm, although because it has some great altitude, they can successfully grow Arabica as well. One of the ways you can see what the differences between a Robusta and Arabica plant the way are they grow. So, the leaves are similar, however the flowers & seeds grow differently along the stem. Robusta tends to clump together in clusters, and a smaller bush, whereas Arabica grows along the stem.

I could spend all day wandering around,  in fact have spent most of the morning and lunch time wandering around with the owner and his son understanding the difference between Robusta and Arabicas altitude , seeing pepper trees, picked wild ginger, picked up Civet Cat Poo (ha-ha) , discussing climate change, hearing stories of elephants trampling through & what the farmer can do to stop the elephants – just incredible.

Following a quick lunch, we headed towards the Golden Temple / Tibetan Monastery at Namdroling. A late afternoon wander in pretty much silence around this Buddhist wonder & home to hundreds of monks. A moment to reflect on what I’m seeing & what’s important in life!

Saturday 3rd Feb 

After two days in the Coorg area visiting two wonderful farms, it was time to head northwest up to the next point of call. It’s a bit of journey travelling to Chickmagalur from Coorg, so the long day was broken up with a guided tour of the Hoysaleswara and Chennakeshava Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva (the Buddhist God of destruction)
Amazing stone carvings depicting the Hindu beliefs and cultures.

Our accommodation in Chickmagalur was at the members only Kadur Club. Since 1883 this place has been open to families, growers, pickers, and associations of the Indian coffee industry. Steeped in history and colonial empire-ness it’s cool! – Jackets, Collars & G&T’s on the lawn what what !! Amazing

Sunday 4th & Monday 5th Feb 

Two days spent on the Badra Estate with Jacob and his family. Unbelievable hospitality, Unbelievable views & unbelievable experiences seeing every process.
Most of the coffee grown here is arabica, natural and wet processed. Jacob’s estate is also the highest peak in Karnataka & from the top all you can see is the vast coffee hills.

Spending time on the Badra estate gave me a greater understanding into the politics of coffee and coffee farming. Knowing about fair trade, rainforest alliance, and the organic process’s I asked Jacob what we could do to help & he replied with “just buy more Indian coffee” In 1942 the Indian government introduced a law protecting coffee farmers and workers, I think this is the only country that does this. It’s providing workers’ rights, a pension, minimum wage, healthcare, and accommodation where required. Jacob’s business was evident of this and great to see. Badra also has childcare, a c​crèche and a hospital on the premises​ for all workers to benefit from. Pickers can also pick over the daily quotes if required to benefit from cash bonuses.

The group had a coffee picking competition, I managed 12kilo in 15 minutes which was pretty good, however I don’t think I could have kept the pace up or indeed the quality for any length of time! Fair play to the professional.

Whereas the previous visits to coffee farms the coffee was sent in to an Ecom facility for processing this place did everything. I have seen a nursery planting for next year’s crop, the flowering trees which smell incredible, picked coffee beans, followed their journey through the wet hulling process, the fermentation tanks, had a go on vast drying patios, enjoyed cupping, sorting, grading and distribution.​ Also seen pickers high up in the tree’s pruning for the future, collecting areca nuts​. peppercorn and coconuts​, JUST AWESOME!

​Tuesday 5th 

Not too far to travel this morning and still in the Bababudan Giri hills,  Chickmagalur , (Birthplace of coffee in India) we head towards another Ecom supported plantation 4,000 ft above sea level, Melkodige Estate is nestled in the serene mountain ranges of the Kudremukh Bio-reserve in the Western Ghats, one of the top-ten biodiversity hotspots in the world with 9,200 plant species , 504 bird species & 139 animal species. Aveen & Wife manage the 250-acre estate which is all shade grown under a 3 teared canopy system.

Amazing carbon positive ecosystem, award winning Arabica’s, Anaerobic (coffee sealed in tanks without oxygen) and an amazing “honey” processed coffee which gives incredible popcorn colours. Amazing, sweet cherries​ enjoyed.

Squeezed in a visit to the Ecom distribution centre for final quality control checks, warehousing for onward shipping, trading & purchasing. If the Green Beans don’t pass these final checks of grade / taste / size quantity & moisture they will not be accepted.

Wednesday 6th – A 6-hour drive from the southwest back to Bangalore and our host’s HQ for a final coffee cupping, followed by a well-deserved beer by the pool!

What a trip, this has been phenomenal.

I’ve seen shade grown coffee, Arabica, Robusta, I’ve seen peppercorns, I’ve seen coconut, I’ve seen pineapples,  I’ve seen cows wandering all over the place, I’ve seen monkeys, experienced lots of traffic, lots of tooting horns, driven over 1200 miles, had amazing food, some amazing flowers,  met some amazing people, some cracking smells, seen the Indian process of coffee which is phenomenal, picked coffee, cupped and drank coffee, had curry for breakfast, lunch & dinner, met new friends, seen what only a small number of people in our industry get to see & what a privilege it has been !