Going beyond the cuppa at The Tamara Coorg
If you were to make a list of the most romantic resorts in the country, The Tamara Coorg would most certainly make the cut almost everytime. Which is perhaps why, when we visited the place last week, we spotted at least four newly-wed couples staying at the place. We, on the other hand, were not there for an intimate escapade or such. Our agenda for the next three days was the resort’s first ever coffee festival, something’s that was long overdue here, considering the resort opened six years ago, amidst the blue hills, greenery and coffee.
Shruti Shibulal, founder and daughter of SD Shibulal, one of the founding members of Infosys, says, “The festival gave guests the opportunity to learn about the different varieties of coffee, how it is grown and how it can be made into the perfect brew. On the itinerary, fun activities like learning to create latte art were relished alongside decadent coffee desserts and cocktails. It also hoped to spread awareness about Coorgi coffee. “However an endeavour like this did present some challenges. She adds, “One difficulty was in predicting the exact time when the coffee plantation would be in full bloom. The weather is always a little unpredictable in the Western Ghats, so choosing the dates when we could witness the coffee blossoms was a challenge.”
Although a trip to the organically-certified plantation is a privilege for any guest on regular days, for this festival, we were allowed to head deeper into the area where we started by plucking the berries. There were two young naturalists present to guide us in the process — KD Bopanna and Lithinkaverappa T — who have been working in this resort for around four years. Their experience comes forth when they tell us the key to distinguishing between arabica and robusta seeds. “Arabica coffee plants are smaller with bigger seeds, and it’s vice versa for the robusta,” says one of them, as we kept plucking with our bare hands (you can use gloves if you are averse to spider webs and stinging ants!)
The importance and the consequence of this distinction was explained to us in detail in a presentation later in the day by Bengaluru-based coffee expert Sushanth HR, who is also the deputy manager of Olam Coffee. “Robusta coffee has more caffeine andD therefore might taste more bitter than arabica coffee. However, robusta plants produce a higher yield and are better suited to tackle pests and other problems,” he said, as he led us to The Verandah, the resort’s shoppers’ stop, where he conducted a tasting session. He started by letting us taste fruits like grapes, orange, lime and lemon — a prepping process to help us recognise their presence in the different cups of coffee that we would be tasting later.
“Coffee plants in India, unlike the ones in export leaders like Brazil, are grown under the shade of other plants, mostly fruit-bearing ones. Hence, the coffee imbibes the flavours of the respective fruits that are grown near it,” he says. There were different kinds of coffee presented before us — like washed and unwashed robusta and arabica. Following his instructions, we tried picking up flavours like jackfruit and banana, but all we could feebly recognise was that of chocolate, lime and grapes. “In most cases, the coffee possesses a mixture of multiple flavours,” he says, adding that one can reach a certain level of mastery only with practice and daily tasting sessions. “I taste around 500 cups everyday,” he calmly quips!
Over the next two days, we were offered a special cocktail menu, where a mildly-strong coffee decoction was blended with their in-house vodka, gin and rum, in drinks like kartha coffee kal and kal buduviya. Complementing that was a special menu that consisted of desserts like coffee tiramisu and coffee souffle, plus a coffee liquor shot. On the last day of our stay we donned our chef hats and took part in an interesting cooking session, where we tasted salads, burgers and grilled chicken laced with a coffee-based dressing. In the end we pampered ourselves with a relaxing coffee scrub (blended with robusta coffee powder, body cream and a cleansing lotion) and delightfully carried some of that distinct aroma of coffee all the way home.