No one knows for sure where it came from; no one even knows how it found its way into the kitchens of India, and almost no one knows how it came to be the rival of the golden brew that had ruled the pots and cups in the country since 750 BC.
For those still looking confused, we are talking about coffee, the much loved beverage that perks up gloomy mornings, adds to long, lazy conversations, helps forge friendships and also keeps you going through long journeys.
Origin of coffee in India
Baba Budan, a pilgrim travelling to holy places of Islam in 17th century AD, is said to be the man who sowed the seeds of coffee in India. He brought with him seven coffee seeds from Yemen and chose Chandragiri hills, now in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur district (pictured below), to plant them.
Baba Budan’s name has been immortalised by rechristening the same hills after him. For more than a century after it was introduced in India, coffee cultivation remained restricted to the area where it was first planted. It was rated low, being grown and consumed by Malnad farmers of the region. The journey of the coffee bean beyond the hills of Chandragiri began only after the arrival of a visionary by the name of JH Jolly, a Britisher.
JH Jolly was an enterprising manager with Parry’s, a trading company based at the Madras estate. His decision to petition the Mysore kingdom for at least 40 acres of land for cultivation became the turning point for the coffee industry in India. Very soon, more and more people, mainly British officers, became involved in coffee cultivation. This led to the merger of small holdings to form large coffee estates, most of them in Coorg, again a district in Karnataka.
The very mention of coffee plantations conjures up images of sprawling acres of rolling greens, colonial-style bungalows complete with fireplace, smiling workers plucking the coffee cherry from the plant, estate managers testing the beans for aroma, and of course, people enjoying endless cups of the fragrant brew.
Staying on a plantation
Thanks to homestays that have come up in recent years, you can now live the planter’s life for a holiday. The experience is as refreshing as the coffee that comes from these estates. Spread over Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the numerous coffee estates provide you with a unique way of enjoying the hills and their many charms.
It’s a unique experience to wander amongst the coffee plants and even lend a hand picking the fresh coffee beans. It’s a great activity for children who can learn all about what goes on behind the scenes at a plantation while the adults can relax over a fresh cup of coffee made with locally grown beans.
Guests at B B estate is a coffee plantation in Coorg where guests can wake up to the scenic view of misty clouds spread over the expanse of the estate before heading for a walk guided by the hosts as they share information on the coffee plantation.
The aptly named Coffee Vista in Wayanad is set right in the middle of a 140- acre coffee plantation with spectacular views of the coffee bushes, as far as the eye can see. Guests can get a peek into a planter’s life while enjoying the pleasures of staying in a plantation bungalow.
Luxury homestay Glenora, also in Wayanad is the ultimate treat for those wanting a special place to stay. Located on a huge coffee, pepper and betel nut plantation of 90 acres. Beautiful cottages built on platforms high above the ground provide spectacular views deep into the plantations without a sign of habitation for miles around. Your private balcony is the perfect spot to enjoy fresh morning coffee from beans harvested on the plantation while watching and listening to the sounds of the jungle awake.
Plantation homestay video
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.