2010 saw us head for Coorg for a family vacation on my birthday in March. I had been living in Bangalore at that time and keen to explore the places around. I was excited to see the coffee plantations and maybe spot some Vanilla plants too as I had heard this region’s climate favoured its cultivation.
We booked into the TATA coffee plantation bungalow and landed amongst lush greenery, replete with a golf course that flourished under the canopies of scores of towering rainforest trees. Our cottage was nestled in a garden brimming with blooms of all shapes and colours where the sunbirds were playing hide and seek with gay abandon.
Our assigned guide assured us of a fantastic time and commandeered one of the plantation jeeps to take us around and show us the various spices – from seed to plant to the final fruit. We were excited to see our common day kitchen spices growing on trees and bushes. Our guide informed us of a “mast” elephant on the prowl and we were to be careful in the bushes as it can be dangerous. Seems it’s a common thing in these parts to have a occasional rogue elephant.
The very first thing our guide pointed out was this very pretty looking plant with unusual protrusions on the flowering stem. He kept us guessing, but we couldn’t imagine what this was. Then we smelled it – yeah we went near it and inhaled. Oh man, it was the warm enticing Vanilla fragrance which has me swooning every time I bake a cake. Of course I took some beans from the plant but these were still raw and I took them as a memento.
Next up were some exquisite white coloured blooms on long leaved plants. The flowers resembles the chrysanthemums and were actually the coffee flowers. We could see and hear the buzz of a gazillion bees of all kinds zooming around these exotic flowers with their citrusy smell. I was amazed to note how the coffee flowers grew in a neat row on each stem.
Further up we saw a few plants where the flowers had dried up and were now forming the coffee berries. I didn’t know the berries were red in colour. They turn dark later, assured out guide and even took us to the harvest collection points where we were able to hold a few and smell them.
He pointed quite a few more from the sweet-smelling cinnamon to the earthy cardamom. I even saw a few that I hadn’t ever heard about like the star aniseed which is a star-shaped spice and smells like liquorice. Just then, he pointed at a few berry strings on a tree and asked us to guess.
Stumped, we looked at him in expectation. He smiled and told us its pepper. Really!!! That looks like a fruit berry or some sort. He explained that the pepper berries are initially green, then darken to a red and finally a brown. At each stage of the berry, the pepper taste is different and they are harvested at different intervals to give us white pepper, green pepper and the much used black pepper. Whoa!! I had no clue that we get all of them from the same berry – harvested at separate intervals of its growth stages.
Ofcourse, mom and me ended up purchasing quite a lot of spices, much to my dad and sister’s amusement. I couldn’t get over the thought of buying them up fresh, straight from the farm without any processing.
Sadly no Vanilla beans as this was not the season for its harvest yet. And no encounter with the out of control Pachyderm either.
“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”
~ Margaret Lee
Have you ever been to a spice plantation? What do you think of spices?
- TATA coffee plantation is situated in Coorg in Karnataka and offers stay with complimentary spice trips.
- The soil and climate at Coorg is very favourable to spices, coffee and even tea.
- Nearest railhead to Coorg is at Mysore – 120 km away. Nearest Airport is Bangalore.
Wait for the W – even I don’t know yet what it will be about
For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.
The A to Z Challenge is created by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out
and co-hosted by
Alex J. Cavanaugh of Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy Hawkins of Hollywood Nuts
John Holton of The Sound of One Hand Typing
J Lenni Dorner of Blog of J. Lenni Dorner
My journey so far in the #AtoZChallenge