In December 2009 Coffea Arabica visited India.
Five hours drive towards the coast from Bangalore lies the small town of Suntikoppa (population of 20,000), among the Coorg Hills of Southern India. This is the heart of the coffee growing area in the state of Karnataka and all around lie small- to medium-sized farms. Located at 600-800 metres above sea level in these fertile hills is Faiz Moosakutty’s Bibi Plantation.
The 250 acre plantation has been in the Moosakutty family since 1960 and is named after Faiz’s mother. Faiz took over in 1990 and has since embarked on replanting the entire estate, aiming to create a model coffee farm. This process is now 100% complete and the Bibi Plantation produces some of the region’s finest coffee. Faiz lives on the farm with his wife, Sonia, and two children – Rihan and Tara.
Bibi Plantation is located in a prime Arabica coffee growing zone and the natural conditions are extremely good for Arabica coffee, especially with an even distribution of rain fall and a careful management of a favourable natural situation.
The coffee is grown in the shade of indigenous silver oaks, jungle figs and rosewood trees, which provide habitat for a vast array of bird and insect life, and the occasional elephant from the nearby forest! While the estate is not officially certified organic, no chemical weed-killers are used, instead weeds are removed by hand so that the cut plants form natural green compost. Micronutrients, manure and compost produced from the skins of pulped coffee cherries are other important, organic fertilisers widely used on the estate.
Labour on the farm is very demanding, with the youth leaving the countryside for the city in order to find better paid jobs like construction, almost all of the workers are aged 45 or over.
Faiz pays the workers a premium price in order to ensure quality and efficiency in farm management and harvesting.
The farm employs around 100 pickers and 50 of whom are living on the farm. I spent everyday with the pickers during my trip, getting to know the pickers personally created a community atmosphere at the plantation.
After the picking, sorting and processing the pickers were going home and carrying on their daily tasks. Grinding the wheat for making flour, collecting wood to light the fire, washing their clothes on the stone by the river then the children were coming back from school.
This was just the daily life of indian families living and working on Bibi Plantation, it was truly peaceful and beautiful.
Coffea Arabica short films: