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From bean to cup – exploring the roots of coffee harvesting

From bean to cup – exploring the roots of coffee harvesting

We care deeply about the origin of our coffee beans and the dedication our growers pour into creating the highest quality product for us to share and enjoy.

As part of our continual education, our team takes regular origin visits to immerse ourselves at the first step of the coffee journey. Our Director, Chris, and Roaster, Libby, recently traveled to Southern India for an in-depth, personal experience of coffee harvesting.

We recently caught up with Chris for a coffee and Q&A.

Why did you travel to India?
We were invited to travel to Southern India on an origin trip by our long-standing business partner, H A Bennetts and Sons, to see the coffee harvesting process from farm to mill. 
As we use India’s arabica and robusta beans in some of our blends, it was fantastic to meet the farmers and see firsthand the enormous passion and effort that goes into cultivating the humble coffee bean.

Where in India did you visit?
We visited the District of Karnataka, one of India’s main coffee growing regions and experienced growing and harvesting first hand at two small plantations.

We began at a small tea and coffee growing plantation at Kelagur Heights, before a trip to the Chickmagaluru region and specifically the Baba Budangiri coffee growing region, for late season arabica and robusta picking. We also saw tea picking and processing - an even more laborious process than coffee.

Tell us more about what you did there.
We were able to see many facets of the coffee process; how the coffee trees are picked each day by teams of people - often working in steep mountain regions - as well as the many different methods of green bean processing, such as washed, semi washed and pulped natural processes. We also visited a dry mill, where beans are processed and sorted for quality and size and packed in either 60 kilo jute bags or bulk bags.

In a cupping session at Kelagur Heights, the farmers were invited to taste their produce against different varieties from around the globe, including Colombian and Kenyan coffees. It was very interesting to see their responses, as they generally only sample Indian coffee.

What was the highlight of your trip?
The highlight of this trip for me was seeing the development and initiatives farmers are undertaking to ensure coffee production not only continues, but increases in quality. 

These farmers are not afraid to try different growing and harvesting methods. This includes the use of different types of coffee trees, such as geisha varieties, and the production of hybrid plants, such as cloning of robusta and arabica plants. By doing this, it ensures that going forward, the trees are more resistant to climate change.

What was your biggest learning?
The amount of sheer hard work by so many that goes into harvesting and processing a simple coffee tree.

What sustainability initiatives did you see at these coffee farms? 
The plantations we visited employ a variety of sustainable initiatives, from composting coffee pulp for fertilizer, through to investment in pulping equipment that recycles water and uses less electricity. 

Did the trip change your perspective of coffee?
This trip was a stark reminder that our eco system is fragile and we need to protect it. Research from agronomists in India indicate that there has been a three degree increase in the average temperature in India over the last 10 years. This further highlights the need for more sustainable and ecological farming practices worldwide, to counter global warming and ensure coffee remains an affordable indulgence for generations to come.

Tell us about the coffee you enjoyed - was there a favourite? 
I sampled a lovely honey processed filter coffee at Kelagur Heights, which was full in flavour with low levels of acidity. 

Where would you like to travel next?
Having not seen the ‘big daddy’ of coffee producing countries, the one and only Brazil, a trip there would be a real adventure. (Plus I may get to see my other passion, football and lots of it!)

Look out for our next Q&A with our Roaster, Libby, as she shares her insights from the Southern India experience.