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    The International Coffee Festival brings growers, sellers, and lovers together in the same mug


    Coffee love is serious love, and Bengaluru knows how to keep up with it. Just last month, Coffee Santhe celebrated your favourite brew with a three-day carnival. It had the best estates in India showcasing their blends and coffee-related demonstrations to coffee-related food and art.

    Cut to the present. Coffee love is hogging the limelight yet again, thanks to the ongoing India International Coffee Festival (IICF) 2018. The expo, which is in its seventh edition, organised by India Coffee Trust – an NGO formed by various stakeholders of the Indian coffee fraternity, is on till Friday. And the event is dotted with different kinds of activities – from panel discussions to exhibitions by various growers.

    Today, for instance, you can flaunt your knowledge of coffee at a quiz. Or, sit down for a workshop about the ‘Role of Sustainability in Post-Harvest Processing with the Right Processing Equipment to Secure the Right Quality, Type and Quantity of Coffee’ by Carlos Brando of Pea Marketing.

    Over two days, you can listen to coffee experts and policy-makers talk about the trends in the coffee market, innovation in the production and packaging segment, startups making coffee ‘cooler’, alternate brewing techniques, and how to turn India into a ‘Coffee Nation’.

    Jose Sette, executive director of International Coffee Organization, will speak about ‘Global Coffee Outlook – addressing challenges to meet future demand’; Dr Joseph K Kimemia, chairman of African Fine Coffee Association, will talk about ‘Initiatives on Promotion of African Coffee’; Dr Peter Baker, director of Climate Edge UK, will share his thoughts about ‘The Changing Climate for Coffee – farming in a time of extremes’; Sanjay Khajuria, senior VP (Corporate Affairs), Nestle India, will discuss the topic ‘Creating Shared Value –
    How responsible business and communities work together’. The fest will also felicitate the best in the business.

    Anil Kumar Bhandari, president of the India Coffee Trust, says that the coffee industry owes a lot to the country’s café culture that has grown rapidly in the past decade or so. “I need to give a little background into this festival. We started this expo in 2002, which begun in tacit with the Coffee Board, commerce industry, and ICT. However, we never asked for funds from the government because we didn’t want the show to come with strings attached.

    There are only 4-5 large corporate houses that are part of this trust. Initially, it was started by a bunch of coffee growers like me, and the idea was to generate domestic consumption of coffee, and to help the growers market their coffee better. In India, 98 per cent of coffee growers are small, which means they farm on less than 10 acres. Now in 2002, the industry across the world suffered a massive slump because the global market was saturated. There was no strength in the industry to combat this deep depression. It is at that time that we considered generating a new idea – something that will increase domestic consumption – instead of the going to the government to ask for waivers and subsidies.” And this where cafes have come into play.

    However Bhandari also adds that the coffee drinking habit remains mostly out of home, but “yes, it created a whole new lifestyle. Before the modern version of cafes, the smaller places had no focus, no identity, barring a few landmark places.”

    Yes, the expo is quite industry-oriented. It is an ideal networking ground for people engaged in the growth, production, packaging, and promotion of coffee, or are planning to make a career switch in the direction. Nonetheless, platforms such as these provide common man a chance to learn what goes into bringing their latte, espresso, cappuccino, or the humble filter coffee to their tables.

    Besides these talks and coffee quiz, an exhibition is being held across two halls – Kalinga 1 and Siddhartha. On showcase are a range of coffee beans and blends, with Coffee Board of India itself displaying and selling 15 varieties (light, medium, and dark) hailing from Coorg to Chikmagalur, Araku Valley, Nilgiris and Wayanad. Plus, you can sift through coffee filters, including a cute, ceramic one. Needless to say, there’s a lot of coffee for you to sip on, from the regular instant brews to the speciality. Moreover, a few vendors will also teach you the method to making a cuppa of your choice.

    Two stalls are interesting. One is selling coffee paintings – painting with coffee powder (see pic on left). It is the handiwork of Himabindu, an IT professional who’s currently on sabbatical. She has put up 30 paintings, and had managed to sell quite a few by Wednesday afternoon. The second one will have you scratch your head as it promises to print your selfie on coffee broth. The set-up will be fully operational today.

    If you want to take your coffee expertise a notch up, you can enquire about the ‘Q Grader Arabica Training & Certification’ programme, which will take off towards the end of February. Or drive down to coffee estates in the state and learn about the bean-to-cup process there. You can get information at the tourism stalls.

    Catch IICF 2018, January 18-19, at The Lalit Ashok, Kumara Krupa High Grounds Details: iicf.in

    source: http://www.bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com / Bangalore Mirror / Home> Entertainment> Lounge / Bangalore Mirror Bureau / January 18th, 2018

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    January 20th, 2018adminBusiness & Economy, Coffee News

    Bengaluru (PTI) :

    The Coffee Board wants to make India a coffee nation and position it as the drink for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of New India, a top official of the board said today.

    Speaking at the inaugural event of the Seventh India International Coffee Festival,Coffee Board secretary Srivatsa Krishna said, “We are positioning coffee as the drink for Prime Minister’s vision of New India.” “Chai (Tea) has been the drink for many many years and British gave tea for free at the street corners and made this country a tea drinking country. We want to make it a coffee nation,” he said.

    “Today outside the southern world and the national capital and a few other state capital, nobody drinks coffee.

    Can we have pure Arabica and Robusta as the drink for the tea bugs from Tier I and II cities of New India? That is the dream we are pursuing.” To achieve its goal,the board wants to make Indian coffee as famed as the Darjeeling or Shillong tea,said Krishna at the four-day event.

    He said the board was working towards branding and geo-tagging Indian coffee, telling the world the unique India coffee story and sell it as a premium product.

    Krishna said the Board was the first organisation in India to introduce the block chain technology into coffee in a pilot project through Eca Analytics.

    Under the project, it intends to bring together growers, curers, roaster, exporters and the Coffee café.

    Eca Analytics would also help the board utilize the 100 years of rainfall and soil data to help the growers.

    Krishna said the board has also partnered with Harvard University to experiment with ‘precision agriculture development’.

    “We are also partnering with Harvard University. Two professors,Michael Kremer and Prof Sean Paul,have come forward with something called precision agriculture development.” “Today they are working in three states of India. We are bringing them into the coffee world wherein through an IVR call working with scientists at CCRI. They can give precise advise to the grower. This will hopefully take off by the end of Q-1,” said Krishna.

    On the occasion, a mobile application developed by the Coffee Board for growers and exporters was also demonstrated.

    It will be formally launched two months later by the Union Commerce Minister.


    source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home / PTI News / January 17th, 2018

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    January 20th, 2018adminBusiness & Economy, Coffee News
    (from left) Jose Sette, ED, International Coffee Organisation; Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister for Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, at the inauguration of the India International Coffee Festival (IICF) in Bengaluru on Wednesday - Photo: SOMASHEKAR G R N

    (from left) Jose Sette, ED, International Coffee Organisation; Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister for Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, at the inauguration of the India International Coffee Festival (IICF) in Bengaluru on Wednesday – Photo: SOMASHEKAR G R N

    Bengaluru :

    India’s coffee sector is seen getting a technology boost with the State-run Coffee Board proposing to introduce a host of initiatives ranging from blockchain to drones soon.

    Coffee Board Secretary Srivatsa Krishna said the Board has partnered with Eka Analytics to introduce blockchain technologies into the coffee sector covering growers, consumers, exporters and the trade including cafes on a pilot basis.

    Rainfall, soil data
    Besides, the rainfall data gathered for over 100 years and soil info are being used to deliver extension and advisory services to the growers on demand through a mobile app, Krishna said at the inaugural of the 7th edition of the India International Coffee Festival.

    Besides, the Board also proposes to introduce the model of Precision Agriculture Development, developed by Harvard professors Michael Kremer and Shawn Cole to the coffee sector in the country and deploy drones for crop estimation, Krishna added.

    He also urged the growers to come together to promote coffee.

    Krishna further said that the Board has applied for a GI tag for four coffee varieties, a move that could help position better and fetch premiums.

    The four-day IICF, organised by the India Coffee Trust and the Coffee Board, is perceived to be a precursor to the International Coffee Organisation’s World Coffee Congress which India will be hosting for the first time in 2020 in Bengaluru.

    India is the sixth largest producer of coffee and about 70 per cent of the country’s produce is exported to Europe and Russia among others.

    Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, while inaugurating the festival, said the domestic market provided a big opportunity for the coffee fraternity to boost consumption.

    Tax issues
    Sudhir Sitapati, Executive Director-Refreshments, at Hindustan Unilever Ltd, stressed upon the need for a parity in GST between tea and coffee.

    While the leaf tea attracts a GST of 5 per cent, on instant coffee it is pegged at 18 per cent.

    The main objective of the festival this year is to capture the changes that are taking place in the coffee sector and to discuss issues faced by the industry and growers, said Anil Kumar Bhandari, President, India Coffee Trust.

    source: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com / Business Line / Home> Economy> AgriBusiness / The Hindu Bureau / January 17th, 2018

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    With international prices falling due to excess production, domestic strategic brand initiative crucial.

    Leading coffee growing countries like Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Indonesia has caused an oversupply with the prices of the commodity falling by about 30% in the global markets.

    Leading coffee growing countries like Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Indonesia has caused an oversupply with the prices of the commodity falling by about 30% in the global markets.


    The Coffee Capital, Banga-lore, will host a four-day international coffee festival, beginning today, amidst global uncertainty over the future of the commodity. Excess coffee production from leading coffee growing countries like Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Indonesia has caused an oversupply with the prices of the commodity falling by about 30% in the global markets.

    Indian coffee industry is at the crossroads now and the only option available for the industry is to create its own coffee brand, for the domestic and international markets, suggested Anil Kumar Bhandari, president, India Coffee Trust.

    “The Ministry of Commerce should set up a special focus group for coffee, involving all stake holders in the industry, to create a profile, brand and a sophisticated communication for Indian coffee at home and outside. The government also has to sanction a fund to build a brand,’’ he said.

    Prediction for climate change impact on coffee producing countries, including India, is already causing a lot of concern for coffee growers. The entire industry is worried about the rumour of Coffee Board getting restructured. The board is the only entity that holds the industry together. Also the industry hears that an Export Promotion Board is on the anvil for coffee.

    Bhandari said, “India has been exporting all its surplus coffee for decades. We grow the best quality coffee, including several specialty varieties. In fact we are the only country that grows coffee under the shade of rain forests. No other country does that. Still, Indian coffee is not able to command a premium in the global markets, because we have not yet built a brand for it. So the need of the hour is to build a sophisticated campaign for our coffee and not creating another entity for exports.’’

    Coffees from Central American countries, South American countries, Kenya, Ethiopia are getting premium in global markets, alth-ough none of these countries grow superior quality coffee. During last fiscal, India exported coffee worth Rs 5,600 crore, the basic price fetched at the New York Futures Exchange. “We have the potential to double the value, with the same quantity of exports, if we are able to position our coffee under specialty and premium varieties and not as bulk commodity sold at the basic price,’’ added Bhandari.

    Vietnam has recently launched a five-year campaign to build its own premium coffee brand.

    The country is spending some $7.5 million in this exercise.

    Indonesia, with an average production of 691,000 tonnes a year, is witnessing a sudden spurt in coffee culture, followed by a mushrooming of cafes across the country. Brazil is the largest coffee producer, consumer and exporter of coffee followed by Vietnam, Indonesia and Columbia.

    China is also quite bullish on coffee retailing, and it’s enthusiasm in the space is evident with every fortnight witnessing the opening of a Starbucks outlet in the country. China’s domestic coffee consumption is in the 12 to 15% range against 5 to 7% that of India.

    source: http://www.asianage.com / The Asian Age / Home> Business> In Other News / by Mini Tejaswi / January 16th, 2018

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    January 16th, 2018adminCoffee News

    Raipur :

    The Chhattisgarh government has undertaken an innovative coffee plantation project in Darbha region of insurgency-hit Bastar district in a bid to boost the income of farmers.

    The cash crop is raised on 20 acres of the government land under the Darbha development block, located around 35 kms away from Jagdalpur district headquarter on an experimental basis by the Jagdalpur horticulture college in collaboration with the Bastar district administration.

    Jagdalpur district headquarter is located around 350 kms away from here.

    “During research, the geo-climatic conditions of Darbha, located at a height of around 654 meters above the sea level and where around 100 mm rainfall occurs in summer, found suitable for growing coffee,” Dr Krishna Pal Singh, Horticulture Scientist at the College of Horticulture and Research Station, Jagdalpur, told PTI.

    He said the regions like Bijapur and Kirandul (Dnatewada) in south Chhattisgarh, and Jashpur (north Chhattisgarh) also have possibilities for coffee farming.

    The ultimate plan was to bring about a change in the cropping pattern of farmers who traditionally depended upon cultivation of rice, Singh said, adding that farmers could not fetch a good return from paddy farming but a coffee plantation would yield more revenue.

    In the first phase of the project, 20 acres of land was finalised on terrains of Darbha-Koleng road, he asid, adding that the fund was granted by the district administration under District Mineral Foundation (DMF).

    The plantation was started in September last year on two acres of the land while the remaining 18 acres will be covered by May this year, he said.

    Initially ‘selection 8’ variety of coffee Arabica species was planted in two acres.

    The Coffee Board of India, Bengaluru, has agreed to provide seedlings of two improved varieties of coffee Arabica- Chandrgiri dwarf and selection 9, and one Coffee Robusta variety- CxR for further plantation, he said.

    The Coffee Board took this decision after its team recently visited the plantation orchard, Singh said.

    As many as 12 local farmers, including six women, have been involved in the cultivation after they were imparted necessary training.

    “Besides, some of the farmers will be sent to the Coffee Research Station in Koraput (Odisha) for further training so that they can take up coffee farming in their field and disseminate it to other farmers,” Dr Singh said.

    For the first three years of the project, the district administration has sanctioned a fund of Rs 60 lakh, he said.

    The horticulture scientist said the coffee cultivation had a span of 45 years once sown.

    “Coffee beans (cherries) for commercial production will be ready from second year onwards. A small processing unit will be set up in future for processing beans into coffee powder,” he added.

    The project has started attracting response of local farmers who have approached the horticulture college to take up the same plantation in their field.

    A group of farmers from Mawlipadar village of Darbha block has contacted us seeking assistance and guidance for growing coffee in around 40 acres of land in their village, Singh said.

    Meanwhile, the college has also planned to plant bush pepper in the coffee orchard as an inter crop.

    Bush pepper will be sown in gaps between two rows of coffee plants, Singh said, adding that the mixed cultivation of both crops would yield a handsome income for the farmers.

    Farmers involved in the cultivation believe that the project would give a new identity to Darbha–where a number of state Congress leaders were killed in a deadly Maoist attack on May 25, 2013 in its Jhiram valley area.

    The district administration has plans to expand coffee plantation in other places of the region if it would turn successful.

    “The coffee cultivation has been started on the experimental basis and once we will get good results, it would be later replicated in other suitable parts,” Bastar Collector Dhananjay Dewangan said.

    The collector further added that based on the results of the project, an action plan will be drafted that would benefit the farming community.

    source: http://www.outlookindia.com / Outlook / Home> The News Scroll / by Tikeshwar Patel / Raipur – January 14th, 2018

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    Chef Anthony Huang admits that Bengaluru played a big role in his culinary story

    There are not a lot of things this small-made man with a big heart can’t whip up in his kitchen. Bengaluru-bred Anthony En Yuan Huang, is an alumnus of St. Joseph’s High School and Christ College and currently Executive Chef at JW Marriott Bengaluru.

    After the recent success of creating and curating a coffee-infused menu, drawing inspiration from the Kodava cuisine, and hosting it in an exclusive Coorg food festival, the chef talks about his love for coffee, his culinary journey and where his cooking is taking him.

    The idea was to keep working with the hotel’s concept of going local, explains Huang. “It only seemed fitting that we visit Coorg, which has some of the best coffee plantations in Karnataka, and try to capitalise and use the fabulous produce the State has. We did some research and found coffee actually goes well with food and doesn’t have to necessarily be looked at as a beverage. That’s where we started thinking about exploring the opportunity.”

    After experimentation, Huang found that coffee, with its robust flavour, lends itself extremely well to grills, roasts and meats. “We chose to use coffee with our barbecues since its finest flavour comes when you’re roasting it. However, we did not tamper with the cuisine itself – pandi curry remains a pandi curry. We used coffee in various forms, including expresso, roast and coffee extract after decoction with higher antioxidants.”

    So where did his interest in cooking begin? Huang fails to recollect the exact moment because he is a third generation chef, albeit the only one with formal training in the family. “It was always in the blood. As a child I’ve always watched mom and grandmom cooking. They come from a line of wedding caterers in China. I have tons of memories with food and I guess it came very naturally to me.”

    He adds that at one point in his life, “Like all kids, I also wanted to be a pilot, a vet or a farmer. Eventually, fate won. I was a typical Bengalurean guy hanging around everywhere except college. But I did want to be a chef. I missed my deadline to apply for hotel management. I went to Christ College anyway to put in a word with the principal. I did not expect in my wildest dreams that he would call me in a few days and allow me to join.”

    He pauses to pop a yummy hot rasgulla in his mouth and continues: “The Bengalurean in me remained and I continued to bunk college. But I was the first graduate to get though Oberoi School in their campus interview. I got through OCLD which is like the IIT of hotels. I scraped through attendance and the rest is history.”

    Huang went on to work in Oberoi Hotels in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru before moving on to propping up free-standing restaurants that were not doing so well. “I wanted something challenging. I went on to Hyatt and then came to Marriott. This is my fourth year here and I’m loving it.”

    He admits that Bengaluru played a big role in his culinary story. “Given the fact that I studied in St Josephs and Christ, I grew up as a hard core Bengalurean. He’s the most easy-going guy in the country. He accepts anything in his stride. A third person can come join our table and he will be welcomed. We, as a city, accept people the way they are. That has been drilled into my DNA since school and it has thought me in my professional line to take every input and add it to my development.”

    A lot of that reflects in Huang’s food.

    “Nothing is wrong – as long as I’m comfortable with it. As long as I’m happy with every plate that has my name on it, I’m cool with it. I don’t have to go by the rule book. Had I not looked at food that way, this coffee trail would have never happened. However, I’m also quite a purist. I like to keep things authentic.”

    Ask him what his signature dish is and he says, “That depends on my mood and the ingredients I have around me. I’d like to take a walk and see what’s available. I believe in freshness. I like to also keep it simple. You will never find my food hiding behind a lot of fluff or garnish. If there’s something on my plate, it means it’s meant to be eaten and adds value to the dish’s taste and enhances the way it looks.”

    While a large part of his life was spent as an Asian chef with Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines and he dabbled a bit with French food, “Deep down in my heart I’m an Indian chef. I love South Indian and North Indian food. I love my biryanis. When I’m at home I’m mostly cooking that for the family.”

    Describing the psyche of a chef, Huang says, “They are driven by passion and work with their heart. When you choose to work in this artistic field, it is equivalent to falling in love with someone. Cooking has a lot to do with emotions.

    “Never ask a chef who’s in a bad mood to cook for you.”

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Life & Style> Food / by Allan Moses Rodricks / January 08th, 2018

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    January 6th, 2018adminCoffee News, Records, All, World Opinion
    Representational Image / TOI

    Representational Image / TOI

    Kochi :

    Baba Budangiri, 250 km from Bengaluru, where coffee was first grown in India, is going for Geographical Indication (GI) of its variety of the Arabica brew.

    On January 1, the Coffee Board filed an application for the GI tagging of Baba Budangiri Arabica and four other varieties — Coorg Arabica, Wayanad Robusta, Chikmagalur Arabic and Araku Valley Arabica — with the Geographical Indication Registry at Chennai.

    Coffee Board head (coffee quality) K Basavaraj said: “We have applied for the GI marker and we are also profiling the majority variety grown in Baba Budangiri, a variety called Selection-795,” Basavaraj said. Selection-795 (S-795) is considered to be the natural descendant of two of the oldest African cultivars of coffee — Coffea Arabica and Coffea Liberica — and a third variety is called Kent. Currently, S-795 is the most prominent coffee grown at Baba Budangiri.

    Edmund Hull in his book ‘Coffee Planting in Southern India and Ceylon’ says that Coffea Arabica originated in Caffa in southern Abyssina and then found its way to Yemen. According to John Shortt’s ‘A Handbook on Coffee Planting in Southern India’, Baba Budan (Baba Booden), a Muslim pilgrim, brought the brew from Mocha, a port city in Yemen, in the 17th century and introduced the variety in the uninhabited hills that came to be known as Baba Budangiri.

    Today, Baba Budangiri Arabica is grown acorss 15,000 hectares around the original hills, where it was first planted. Over the last few centuries, coffee plantations grew beyond Baba Budangiri and the adjoining Chickmagalur and spread to Kodagu and Hassan in Karnataka, and Wayanad, Travancore and Nelliampathy regions of Kerala. It is also grown in the hilly regions of Palani, Shevroy, Nilgiris and Anamalais in Tamil Nadu. The non-traditional areas of coffee-growing in India includes certain pockets in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> Business News> India Business News / by Shenoy Karun / TNN / January 06th, 2018

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    December 27th, 2017adminCoffee News, World Opinion

    Kochi :

    Aspinwall and Company, the 150-year-old plantations and logistics major, is going for a brand revamp of its Monsooned Malabar coffee, that caters mostly to the export market.

    The product, fetching a premium price in the European market, will be known as Aspinwall Mellows in the overseas market.

    According to KNR Menon, Chairman, the company is looking at marketing its speciality coffee to other countries, given the rising demand for certified coffees. Monsooned coffee from Aspinwall estates has got certifications from Rainforest Alliance and UTZ for sustainable farming.

    Besides speciality coffee, the company has interests in logistics, natural rubber and natural fibres. While coffee accounts for nearly 50 per cent of its income, logistics has 35 per cent share and the remaining from rubber and natural fibres.

    Rama Varma, Managing Director, said the company chalked out plans to double its turnover by 2020 from the present ₹250 crore.

    source: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com / Business Line / Home> Economy> Agri Business / by The Hindu Bureau / Kochi – December 20th, 2017

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    December 23rd, 2017adminBusiness & Economy, Coffee News, World Opinion

    The company is also planning for a domestic foray in January at the India International Coffee Festival.


    Krish Food and Fun India, a Bengaluru-based start-up, plans to globally launch Araku Aroma Brand of coffees in the United States. “The company is launching Araku Aroma Coffees in Edison, New Jersey in the US. We are helping marketing coffees grown in the tribal belt of Andhra Pradesh. The Araku is tribal valley near Vishakhapatnam,” said Krishna Chaitanya, Managing Director, Krish Food and Fun India.

    The company is also planning for a domestic foray in January at the India International Coffee Festival. According to Chaitanya, “As per the agreement, we are to buy coffees harvested by tribal farmers in around 250 acres. The company plans to market around 500 tonnes of coffee annually.”

    “For this we have invested Rs 2.5 crore to set up roasting facility and for marketing tribal grown coffees,” he added.

    Chaitanya was in Bengaluru recently to make final arrangements to release Araku Aroma brand of coffees. “As part of the agreement with tribal community, we want to spend 10 per cent of our profits from selling Araku Aroma to procure anti-venom drugs and for providing general medical facilities to the tribal community,” revealed Chaitanya.

    source: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com / Business Line / Home> Companies / by Anil Urs / Bengaluru – December 23rd, 2017

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    December 20th, 2017adminCoffee News


    A “rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved” cup of coffee is the “life blood of tired men” and most of us would agree to author Raymond Thornton Chandler on this.

    In Meghalaya where tea is the traditional beverage, coffee has always remained a second fiddle to its more popular cousin. But things are changing fast and soon coffee will catch up with tea in popularity.

    Though the practice of drinking coffee has seen an upward trend in the state in the last few years thanks to the booming cafe business, the beverage is not new to the hill tribes here.

    “Coffee plant grows in the wild in Meghalaya and the fruits are eaten by birds. Some villagers would also drink coffee but they would prepare it indigenously,” says Dondor Giri Nongkhlaw, the owner of Smoky Falls Tribe Coffee, which is marketing the local brew.

    Nongkhlaw is the first person to realise the potential of the local plantation and explore the villages for procuring beans. His quest for coffee grown in Meghalaya had its roots in his childhood memories of sipping a hot cuppa prepared by his grandmother by grinding the beans.

    “I started intensive research on how to procure and market locally grown coffee after I retired in 2007. I have visited several villages and interacted with farmers and told them about the benefits of growing the cash crop,” says the former professor of Geography at Synod College. His roasting and grinding unit is the first in the entire northeastern region.

    Smoky Falls is the result of Nongkhlaw’s untiring work and undaunted spirit. The 66-year-old man visits villages frequently and sensitise farmers on methods of plantation and soil replenishment. “Most of the villagers grow broomstick that affects the soil. This necessitates rejuvenation before going for coffee plantation,” he says.

    Coffee, which is a labour intensive but high-return crop, was reportedly introduced in Cachar district in Assam during 1850s. It was also cultivated in Mizoram and Cherrapunjee in 1870s. Hundred tonnes of coffee were marketed in Shillong in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But after 1930, the cultivation lost steam.

    Arabica is the only variety that grew in the wilds of Meghalaya, according to a book written in 1906 by BC Basu, the then director of the Agriculture Department of undivided Assam. It was the Coffee Board of India that introduced Robusta in the state and trained farmers in planting the variety, says Nongkhlaw. There are indigenous varieties of coffee too like Coffea khasiana and Coffea bengalensis, which are common in the hills.

    New avenues

    The Coffee Board has taken up a large project to encourage new coffee plantation by raising group nursery with financial assistance from the board. It spent 10-15 years on survey and identification of suitable area. It was found that 44,000 hectare, including 5,900 hectare in Meghalaya, is suitable for coffee in the entire North East. Out of this, 3,350 hectare is suitable in Garo Hills and 2,545 hectare in East Khasi Hills.

    In 2016-17, 1,90,000 coffee seedlings were raised in Ri Bhoi and Jaintia Hills. At present, Robusta and Arabica plantations cover an area of 1,005 hectares in Meghalaya. The production in the last five years varied between 25-30 metric tonne.

    Arabica plant yields berries after the third year and Robusta after four. Nongkhlaw says sometimes the plants may bear fruits early but the quality will not be good.

    While Robusta grows in low altitude areas, between 500 and 1,000 meters, Arabica is found in areas 3000 ft or more above the sea level. In East Khasi Hills, coffee plantation is found at Nongjri, Lapalang, Mawryngkang, Nongskhen, Myllat and Mynria. Marngar and Nongrim Jyrmi in Ri Bhoi also have the plantation. Four districts in Garo Hills too produce a substantial amount of coffee. The crop grown in the state is organic.

    “Coffee is a cash crop and is also a perennial crop that can protect the environment. It is also giving income to the local population both directly and indirectly. The Soil Department here was helping the coffee farmers by providing technical guidance,” says a senior official of Coffee Board in Guwahati.

    Now, the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority is also involved and recently two technical workshops were conducted in Tura and Shillong.

    At present, around 1,700 farmers in the state are involved in coffee cultivation. The Coffee Board has a senior liaison officer in Tura and a junior liaison officer in Shillong. “The commercial crops board of the Soil Conservation Department was promoting coffee, especially in Garo Hills. But many farmers had left it due to lack of buyers until Smoky Falls came along. The Coffee Board has also been doing some work here,” said a senior official in the Agriculture Department.

    Agents of change

    Another agent of change, besides Smoky Falls and the various government units, is Zizira, a local food product’s venture. Zizira has explored the remotest corners of the state to find the best beans.

    The young explorers at Zizira say though Meghalaya produces high quality coffee it does not count in the national market. This is because the number of farmers is less and those who grew coffee never sold the produce locally. “In fact, their harvest is purchased by the Coffee Board and sent to the nearest processing centre in Guwahati and then transported to Bengaluru’s auction houses. The identity of Meghalaya coffee is thus lost,” the team points out.

    To empower the farmers here and give the indigenous crop its identity, the Zizira team has been exploring the back of beyond for the last two years. Zizira may source coffee directly from such farmers for both in-house consumption and creating its own product.

    Talking about their unique experiences with coffee farmers, a member of the team narrates the story of Teibor Mynsong of Ri Bhoi district.

    “Mynsong used to grow pineapples but shifted to coffee in 2012 because it requires less labour and care. The leaves fall off the plants and replenish the soil and no pesticide or fertiliser is required. He now has 1,200 coffee plants which produce 2 kg of coffee berries per year,” she says.

    Nongkhlaw, who is planning to introduce green coffee soon, says while Robusta is a sturdy variety, Arabica needs care against stem borers and leaf rust.

    Villagers at Nongjri in Sohra are also realising the benefits. About 20 farmers in the village near Bangladesh border have taken up coffee plantation. Along the serpentine road that leads to Nongjri Tluh from Pynursla, one would find rows of broom shrubs and bamboos and amid the bushes one can also spot a few coffee plants growing wildly.

    Coffee farmers Riing Wallang and Bison Roy Laso of Nongjri Tluh love to take visitors around their coffee plantation. Though the produce is good, “we are expecting less beans this year because of the torrential rain”, says the duo in unison.

    “I have planted 1,000 more. It is true that coffee does not require much care but the price that we get is low and this makes things unsustainable. If we get a higher price, we can do better,” says 65-year-old Wallang while running up the slope to his coffee bagan (garden).

    The farmers sell coffee fruits at Rs 60-70 per kg, informs Laso.

    Besides coffee, they also grow broom, betel nut and papaya, among other things.

    Back in Shillong, Nongkhlaw too points out the drawbacks.

    Erratic power supply, says the owner of Smoky Falls, hampers roasting. “If power goes off in between roasting, then the entire 5 kg of coffee beans is wasted (the roasting machine can take in 5kg at a time),” he says.

    Also, high price of locally grown coffee deters many from buying the product. “The high price is because we do not add chicory to the product unlike the instant coffee you get in the market. Also, a kilogram of coffee fruits would yield only around 350 gm of beans after removing the husk. So you can imagine,” says Nongkhlaw whose Smoky Falls brand is supplied to cities like Mumbai and Chennai but the sale is only online.

    The organic status, says Nongkhlaw, might improve the scenario. But the Coffee Board official says it will take some time before proper certification.

    Zizira says proper processing units are important. “A government official rightly pointed out to our team that even if a good number of people take up coffee growing, lack of knowledge and the required processing units are pushing these farmers to give up cultivation,” the team points out.

    Future brew

    The government recently proposed to export coffee to Bangladesh but Nongkhlaw says for this, there should be sustainability. The Coffee Board official says it may take three to four years to increase the production before the state thinks about exporting.

    “There has been some talk of exploring the market. Whether the idea is practical will depend on the market and consumer preferences there but a possible hurdle might arise from the HS codes of Bangladesh,” says the official in the Agriculture Department.

    But VR Gudde Gowda, joint director extension at Coffee Board Guwahati, is optimistic.

    “Due to the coffee culture coming up in India, the North East youths are also attracted towards it. Nongkhlaw has set up a roasting and grinding unit in Shillong. He is buying the coffee directly from growers and thereby attracting more farmers to grow coffee,” says Gowda.

    (Photo courtesy: Zizira, Sunday Shillong)

    source: http://www.theshillongtimes.com / The Shillong Times / Home> Sunday / by Webeditor / Heather Cecilia Phanwar & Nabamita Mitra

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