One of the best flavors of South India can be found in a cup. A trip to India can definitely deliver that heady aroma and rich flavor of South Indian filter coffee every day. You can take your love for coffee a notch further by planning to stay right in the heart of it all at a coffee plantation. A holiday visiting India’s coffee plantation trail and relaxing in the villas and retreats among the verdant coffee growing hills may just be your cup of tea…sorry, coffee.
Indian coffee is reputed to be the best shade-grown flavor anywhere, making India one of the top 10 coffee exporters in the world. That’s despite the fact that 40 percent of coffee that’s grown in India is also consumed there. The traditional areas for coffee plantation are in the hills of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where it’s slightly cooler than the plains.
In Karnataka, the most famous coffee region is Coorg, though the district of Chikkamagaluru (about 160 kms away) is where the first coffee in India was grown. The lush, rolling slopes grow both a hybrid of Arabica that’s resistant to a fungus called “coffee rust” and Robusta.
In Coorg, you’ll find paddy fields as well as plantations that grow coffee and pepper amid tall eucalyptus trees. There are several homestays that range from basic to luxurious getaways. And if you get tired of sitting back, there are the Brahmagiri, Talakaveri, and Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuaries, and the Nagarhole National Park within driving distance. We encourage renting a vehicle and driver by the day to visit these.
The best way to reach Coorg is by road. Travel either with your own private car and driver, or take a deluxe bus from Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore.
In Kerala, leave the backwaters and detour to Wayanad where the elevation gives us coffee, tea and spice plantations nestled among some of India’s largest waterfalls. At the plantation stays, between cups of fragrant coffee, you can put your feet up and tour the gardens and watch the planting and harvesting. Or you can step out to embrace nature at the Pookode Lake, the three-tiered Soochipara Falls where there’s an opportunity to go rock climbing or the Edakkal Caves with wall inscriptions dating back to 6,000 BCE.
To reach Wayanad, you can fly in to Kochi and then drive the six hours in a car or luxury bus. Or within India, take a train to Calicut and do the rest of the two hour journey by deluxe bus or private car.
Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu’s coffee plantations are mostly in Coonoor, the hill station in India’s blue mountain range, the Nilgiris. Coonoor has lovely plantation stay options, as well as being the ideal setting for trekking or visits to the botanical garden called Sim’s Park.
When to go
Coffee planting season lasts from June through December and the hills are absolutely beautiful just after the rains. We recommend going in the cooler season, between September and March, when the nights are chilly and the mist rolls in morning and evening, giving everything a slightly ethereal feel.