The highland of Kerala within the Western Ghats is home to cash crops like Coffee, Pepper, Cardamom and Tea. It is the weather that acts as a catalyst for the growth of these cash crops, of which Idukki is the most prominent hill district, the top producer of these crops. The coffee used to help in financial stability for the farmers. Even though there was a drop in prices of Coffee, its slowly gained back in due course of time.
We mostly have four different categories of coffee in Idukki considering the climate and the soil. They are Arabica, Robusta, CXR, and Mettu Kappi. Of these Arabica and Robust is more favorite for farmers because of its quality and taste. CXR is a hybrid developed from Arabica that means more yield is procured from CXR. Mettu Kaapi is the wild variety and the traditionally cultivated Coffee variety in the hills of Idukki. Mattukappi grows vertically at a very fast pace and so harvesting is not a easy task. Being the case it is not really cultivated by farmers these days. Mettu Kaapi has got a slight element of a sour taste, however is considered to be the best coffee when mixed with milk or cream. The longer the Mettu Kaapi seeds are stored, the more the taste it has. Let me be frank about this, among all these Mettu Kappi the wild variety is my personal choice, having it without milk.
April and May summer showers help in flowering of the plant. When the flowers bud, it gives out a very fresh aroma and to see a flowered coffee plantation is very beautiful. Since April and May is the summer, flowering does not happen for most plants, the flowering of coffee is a beautiful time for honeybees. The Harvesting period falls during the month of November and December. The laborers are contracted to pluck ripe coffee beans. The harvested crop is spread over to sun dry, depending on the light and head, it would take an approximate time of ten to fifteen days to dry.
Since the coffee bean has such a long shelf life, farmers have the option to store it if the prices really go down. The care for the coffee plant is less compared to cardamom and pepper. Manure and fertilizers has to be treated and applied only once a year and during summer the chances of the plant getting dried is very low. Many handicraft units in Kumily and across the state use coffee plant roots which is very strong and hard.
A Black coffee is in the morning is part of an Idukkikaran’s life, for workers it almost acts as an energy drink. Workers have black coffee many times a day. During winter the consumption goes high, as these coffees keeps the body warmer and protects form the harsh cold climate of Idukki Winter. During olden days, these coffee beans were roasted and powdered in each household for their use, unlike today we take it to coffee mills. Next time when you are here, if you want we could get you some real nice black coffee to boost your senses