A Slice of Coorg
A journey that led me to Coorg was an invitation to visit the Tata Plantation Trails. This one caught me completely off guard: Tea? In Coorg? For most of us, Coorg and the surrounding districts have been coffee country. During my first trip, I remember walking through the coffee plantations with our guide who explained that Coorg was home to “shade-grown coffee” - that hardly any forest had been cleared to make way for the plantations and that coffee cultivated in the shade tasted different. He had also pointed out how the coffee plantations were home to pepper vines, cardamom and vanilla too as it grows as a creeper on the very tress which form a shady canopy over coffee plants. The trip to the tea estates were full of just as many surprises. The Tata Plantation Trails though famous, were not yet frequented by too many visitors. Not only are they breathtaking, but their close proximity to Bylakuppe (the Tibetan settlement), a forest and a beautiful waterfall make them a paradise.
A morning walk through the misty plantation came with numerous rewards. In addition to watching the tea workers at work, one came across numerous birds, wild flowers and wild mushrooms growing peacefully on many a tree. The most exciting moment was stumbling upon an elephant footprint near the forest patch! The long walk had worked up a good breakfast appetite and the cooks at Glenlorna cottage (named after the daughter of the man who planted the first tea saplings in Coorg), where I was put up, had ensured a scrumptious Kodagu breakfast of rice flatbreads with chutney and curry with an assortment of teas (of course!) and fruits. I was waiting for lunch as I had been promised the famous Pandi curry with Kadambuttu (a type of rice dumpling). Rich, dark and spicy, this curry was like nothing I had ever tasted before. The meat was marinated in kachampuli which though many say is India’s answer to balsamic, has a distinct flavour of its own. There were other dishes too and preserved mango and preserved jackfruit made an appearance yet again. And as I ate, I understood that the cuisine of Coorg was simple but the flavours were pretty complex owing to techniques. The use of sesame oil gave the food yet another distinct character. The cooks were natives of the region and hence the food was as authentic as it could get. The cottage itself is a delight and the people make your stay extremely comfortable.
It’s true that Coorg or Kodagu holds the title of being the “Coffee Cup of India”, however, if you get a chance, do go an sample a hot cup of tea here as well… it’s worth every minute!