I wanted to live on a coffee plantation the first time I visited this area way back in 2004. However, an inaccessible way came in the way and we ended up staying at a regular hotel. It took me 14 years to go back and finally explore the life at one such estate in Coorg.
I must thank the Old Kent Estate for inviting us and being the wonderful host at their 200-acre coffee plantation estate. We not only lived among the coffee plants that were partially in bloom but we also got to explore the eco-system in which Coffee plants live.
History of Old Kent Estate
A family-owned estate brought more or less directly from Col. Wright who had set up this Coffee Plantation Estate in 1864. It remains more or less how it was in the good old days.
I assumed that the Col. Wright would have come from Kent County in England and that is why it is called Old Kent Estate. I was wrong. In the days of Wright, it was called Horoor estate – after the village, it is located next to. It was named so by the current owners of the estate and no, it is still not named after Kent County. It is called so because one of the first varieties of coffee that was grown here was called Kent. So, it derives its name literally from the history of coffee on this land.
Old black and white photographs, handwritten notes, shelves full of books and furniture take you back in time in their own way at Old Kent Estate.
The place aims to re-create the coffee planter’s life as it was in the yesteryears. There is vintage furniture and old coffee processing equipment. There is a lodge that is perched high above and gives you a vantage point to admire the gardens around. We enjoyed spotting colorful birds here on the surrounding trees.
Coffee Plantation and its Eco-System
Lorenzo Gariano – an Italian who has completed the 7 Summit challenge of summiting all the 7 summits on 7 continents, has designed 3 walking trails through the plantation. We did all the three trails and some of our own while chasing the birds.
A yellow trail takes you on an easy path, mostly a paved road. A red trail takes you deep through the coffee plantation passing through the cardamom fields, bushes of cherry tomatoes, with cluster beans creating a carpet on the floor. Young jackfruits hung from the tree trunks, inviting elephants with their strong smell.
Around mid-March, Coorg gets some rain showers which are called bloom showers. Well, they make the coffee flowers bloom. We were just in time for that however, the rain Gods were lazy and decided to be late. Man, always has a workaround. So, coffee planters use sprinklers to create an artificial shower and make the plants bloom.
Coffee Flowers Bloom
This is the first time I saw the coffee flowers. The delicate white flowers sit in between the hanging tall green leaves like the floral decorations sit on a lady’s braid. Perfectly spaced in one long row, they could be showing a path to someplace. As with all good things, they last just for 1-3 days giving way to the coffee beans that would grow on the plant for the next 9 months.
Coffee beans and humans take the same amount of time from conception to birth.
Overlooking the coffee plants hanging on the tall trees, mostly Arecanut trees, are the vines of Black Pepper. It is interesting to see the green and red peppercorns bunches hanging on them. On the sides of our walking trail were bushes of Cherry Tomatoes – which we were told are wild and grow on their own. Imagine, plucking them and using them on the next salad plate.
I was most fascinated by the cardamom plantation as it is not very often that we see it. What made it even more exciting was the traditional cardamom drying room. An old Tobacco company furnace door guards the oven that heats and dehumidifies the room. Inside the room, there are stacks of trays with perforated bases. Raw cardamoms were spread out on them – allowing them to dry before they are ready to go to the market.
I loved the taste of fresh cardamom plucked from the plant while it is still shining green. The flavor stayed with me throughout the day. The joy of having it straight from the plant I do not think can be put in words.
Blue trail was done by Shashi which took him to the small lakes and the giant bear tree – 28 feet in circumference. This trail takes you closer to the forest. Incidentally, coffee plantations look quite natural contrary to the tea gardens that look manicured.
All these trails are marked and you can do them on your own. The estate does have a guided plantation walk every day. There is a map at the entrance and in the room for reference.
Relishing the Coffee
After you walk through the plantations, the urge to have coffee is but natural. Sadat Sathak – The COO of the estate decided to roast, brew, and cup the coffee for us. For an hour or so we could see the light green coffee beans being roasted to a deep brown shade. It was then powdered and brewed in different ways. First, we had the electric machine made Italian Espresso and Cappuccino. It tastes better when you see the whole process right in front of you.
The highlight though was the Japanese brewing. The plain thermal-mechanical process takes the hot water to the upper flask that has the coffee powder in it. As the bottom cools, it sends back the brewed coffee to the bottom beaker – ready to serve. Light nuanced coffee is great with Arabica Beans.
No Plastic is Possible!
All the 4 days that we were at the estate, we did not come across any plastic. That is right – no plastic at all.
As soon as we entered the boundaries of the coffee plantation, we saw the rucksacks bound to the poles to collect garbage.
Water was served from glass bottles. I loved the mint and lemon-flavored water they serve. In the room too, drinking water came in glass bottles.
Toiletries came wrapped in areca nut covers tied together with a coir rope. Bathroom slippers too were made of jute. Only the waste disposal bags were in plastic – I hope it is the bio-degradable variety.
Having no plastic around feels like there is nothing coming between you and nature around. And yes, it also tells us that having a No Plastic Lifestyle is possible.
Cottages at Old Kent Estate
Cottages are spacious with glass windows that let you see the forest even from the comfort of your room. Bathroom with glass top roof lets the ample sunlight in during the day and you do not need any lights. What was unique was the small foot spa unit located next to the glass window. Soak your feet in the saltwater and let your eyes soak in the greenery around.
Our favorite morning and evening activity was to sit outside our cottage and watch the birds jump around the trees.
The Internet connection is a bit of a challenge, but that is something that you expect when you stay inside a coffee plantation. Having said that, our Jio connection worked in the cottage to an extent that we could see our emails.
The Food is served at the Lodge or at the Perch. Food is freshly made to order as there is a limited number of people. This essentially means the food is fresh and tasty. Breakfast has both English and South Indian options.
Perch is connected to the cottages with steps covered with the canopied flowering vines making it look very romantic. It is a great place for photoshoots. I was told many south Indian films have been shot at this estate.
Stays at Coorg is like a perfect place to have a relaxing holiday in the middle of nature. While there are many places where you can do that, the plantations offer you the indulgence of fresh coffee – right from the source.
For more details, check out their website.
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What else did we do in Coorg? Stay tuned for some travel tales from the hill station.