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  • Nita Bajoria

Mudigere- A Filter Kaapi Break

While Sufi Budan Shah hid seven coffee beans close to his heart at Mocha, a port city in Yemen, in an attempt to bring home the refreshing drink he relished there, little did he know that he was about to create the history of coffee in India. Back home, he planted those green berries in his garden around his hermitage, presently in the Bababudan mountain named after him. And since then the plant rooted itself forever and spread its magical wings all over the Western Ghats to give India its own cup of coffee.

Even in a quaint little village of Mudigere, there are more than fourteen coffee plantations to boast of. Nestled under the Devarmane hills, this coffee-rich county dotted with natural lakes and falls offers a peaceful retreat from the overcrowded smoky metro life. And this gave me enough reason to opt for a coffee break right at this part of the less-traversed Western Ghats.

Coffee Walk

One is conveniently left with healthier options to spend their leisurely hours in the absence of mobile connectivity and Wi-Fi. An early morning stroll to the coffee plantation next door being one. Rich aroma of coffee beans not only soothes the olfactory senses, it also makes you forget all other odor around. Hence, its use by perfume sellers all around the world. However, as I entered the coffee plantation and inhaled a lungful of air, I was disappointed. It smelled nothing like coffee. Am I having stuffy nose, I wondered. Our guide Sandeep smiled and gave away the secret—the lingering smell of coffee is only achieved after being roasted.

It wasn’t the coffee picking season. Instead, the beans resembled some wild green berries and nowhere like coffee. The berries would later turn reddish purple when ripe and would be peeled to unravel the seeds. These seeds would then be roasted, graded and sold.

But, unlike tea gardens, the plantation didn’t have only coffee plants. The evergreen shrubs with dark green glossy leaves were guarded and protected from the scorching sun by plenty of varied trees that provided shade and also kept the land fertile. This traditional method of shade-growing yields superior quality as the berries take time to ripe and the taste and texture of the coffee gets enriched, well-balanced, mild with pronounced body and low acidity. They are also intercropped with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper.

Tall trees of silver oak stood confidently like beautiful ladies wrapped in vines of peppercorns. Sun rays peeked through the jackfruit trees, luring us to climb and relish the heavenly fruit. Walking through the narrow meandering red soil path lined with “Robusta” plant on one side and delicate “Arabica” bushes on the other, I just missed the coffee picking basket. Nevertheless, I satisfied myself taking pictures of the raw green berries that might end up in my cup one day.

Devarmane

After a refreshing drink of filter “Kaapi”, we set off to explore the Devarmane Hills. We did a mini trek up the hill top and found ourselves surrounded by arrays of carpeted green hills. It was misty and felt heavenly as the sun started dipping behind the hills, imparting an orange tone to the sky. The air was fresh and nippy.

Few kilometers away stood the Kala Bhaireshwara Temple of Lord Shiva that once witnessed the rise of Chola Dynasty. By the star shaped veranda, rounded poles and dheep sthamba one can easily guess it to be the construction of Hoysalas. The shrine’s entrance is flanked by demon figures. However, there is a special warmth and spiritual energy inside. Touching the stone walls of the temple, I tried feeling the devotion, faith and prayers of millions of people who come here to surrender to God’s will and mercy. Walking down the steps of the pond opposite, I felt as though deported to an era when temples were a place to socialize. The pond was possibly used by the devotees to cleanse themselves before entering the shrine. The tranquil pond against the backdrop of Kalasa jungle has an ancient well at the end of the steps called “Battalu Bhavi”. As per mythology, this is the well from where water was taken to worship lord Shiva by a farmer mother and child for agriculture prosperity.

But the best way to explore Mudigere is by roaming around aimlessly. You will be surprised to find numerous hidden lakes, streams, little falls, vast stretch of paddy fields and serene hilltops to soothe your senses. For those with a spiritual heart there are few historical temples too.

We went there to relax and as a retreat. Hence didn’t take part in too many rigorous trekking. But for trekkers there are numerous enchanting peaks like Ettina Bhuja meaning shoulder of OX in Kannada, and Jenikal Gudda famous for its sunset point. The list is endless and just about barely discovered. So you can pick any and let yourself free to enjoy and experience the wilderness at its best.

Mudigere cuisine’s best bait is that it is all based on local ingredients. Hence, morning, noon and night we devoured the dishes that were all fresh and full of local flavor. Be it the soft and fluffy Neer Dosa, the crisp Akki roti, spicy bisi bele baath or the extremely popular Mysore dosa. Even sweets like rawa kesar baath and Mysore pak has a distinct texture that can salivate your mouth even before it reaches your plate.

As the red sun buried itself behind the mountains, trees around the lake turned into silhouettes of different shapes and sizes recreating stories of the coffee land. The pollution-free starry sky came to give me company and lulled me to sleep as I watched them twinkling from the verandah of my resort room. I hesitantly bid goodbye to my vacation the next morning, with a solemn promise to come back soon.


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