Come Along…to Coffee Country

Wake up to the twittering of the birds. To the rooster going cock-a-doodle-doo. As tree leaves rustle with the falling of dew drops, make your way tapping on mud streets through plantations ripe with red coffee beans, sipping from a hot cup of freshly ground and brewed coffee! Welcome to coffee land. To the verdant estates of Karnataka’s coffee twins, Coorg and Chikmagalur.

Just a couple of hours drive from Bengaluru, Coorg and Chikmagalur have much to offer one and all…the evolved traveller, the backpacker, the adventure-seeker, the trekker, the retired soul seeking solace, the high-flying executive out for some luxury in the wild, to the laidback individual looking to do nothing. A mere walk through the coffee plantations that are interspersed with silver oak, pepper vines and spice plants can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated within minutes. You could choose to go on a trekking trail to Mullayanagiri when in Chikmagalur, or to the Thadiyandamol in Coorg. Soak in the gurgling waters of the Abbey falls in Coorg, or observe the clear waters at the Yagachi dam en route to Chikmagalur. The two places surely have a plethora of sights on offer from intricately carved Hoysala temples like the ones at Belur, Amrithapura and Halebid near Chikmagalur, to Talacauvery – the origin of the river Cauvery in Coorg. Soak in the dense foliage, cascading waterfalls and the crisp country air. Gorge on scrumptious delights like the pandi curry, badnekayi chutney, benne kadabu and of course, the best coffee! The two C’s, as Bengalureans can vouch for, undoubtedly make for a great holiday!

To make your next vacation truly memorable, RITZ explores some of the most sought-after luxury resorts, colonial bungalows and quaint homestays set amidst gorgeous greenery that the coffee belt offers as options for exotic accommodations. So pack your bags, shed all your city worries, press the accelerator and zoom away.

The Serai – Chikmagalur

‘Inspired by Coffee’, spread across 70 acres and located in the middle of a coffee plantation, The Serai comprises plush rooms and private villas with Jacuzzi and swimming pools to provide the ultimate luxury. The rich upholstery and sleek interiors superbly complement the bright colours of the property. Not just the surroundings, the services as well at The Serai are inspired by coffee. You can probably pamper yourself with a coffee specialized therapy at the wellness retreat, The Oma Spa. Rich in anti-oxidants, coffee beans are said to be great for the skin.

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Rejuvenated, you can then take a plantation walk and learn the history of coffee and the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans. The popular Bean to Cup is another activity that takes guests further along their coffee journeys by letting them learn the process of getting that perfect brew. Coffee addicts can as well participate in the ‘Coffee at Sunset’, where you can learn the authentic coffee filtering process using traditional glass filters and cups and make your own (coffee) cup amidst a beautiful plantation. Don’t forget to have a romantic dinner with your loved ones under the banyan tree with some mouth-watering foods before calling it a day.

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Lip-smacking delights: The Serai attempts to showcase true Malnad cuisine. You must try the akki roti with the finger-licking bendekai gojju.

Location: Mugthihalli Post, KM Road, Chikmagalur

Contact: 82622 24903

A two nights package for a couple will cost Rs 40,500 (winter rates) plus taxes.

Kedakal Estate – Coorg

Looking for an out-of-this-world experience with a Coorgi family? Then drive straight to the Kedakal Estate, a boutique homestay built in the early 1900s. Surrounded by dense coffee plantations and spice gardens, this cosy homestay will certainly make you ‘feel at home’ while sparing no effort to indulge you in luxury. Set 3400 feet above sea level, Kedakal is a colonial homestay where your hosts, the Divakars, ensure that you are looked after as a member of their family.

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The varied sounds of nature, from birds chirping in the daytime, to the night creatures singing their lullaby, will leave you totally relaxed. Consisting of four luxurious bedrooms, with two cosy wooden floor lofts, the cottage also has a spacious living area to unwind and a deck to take in breath-taking views of the plantations, valleys and the sun and sky. Kedakal is the place to sit back and do nothing. Yes, absolutely nothing. Just staring at nature in awe and experiencing the famed Coorgi hospitality of your hosts. If you still choose to, you could walk through the plantation, swim in their elegant pool, cycle around the property, read a book by the deck, and sit around the hearth sipping coffee.

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Lip-smacking delights: The food here is cooked by the hostess Uma Divakar herself and is wholesome South Indian food leaning towards the Malabari cuisine. You should relish the pandi curry and kadamputtu and the appam with stew. Yummy!

Location: The Kedakal Estate, Kedakal Post, Suntikoppa – 571237, North Coorg

Contact: 94482 84341

A one night stay for two costs around Rs.5,500 plus taxes.

Orange County – Coorg

Synonymous with splendour in Coorg, Orange County is the place that leaves you feeling like a Coorgi royal. The heritage pool villas are inspired by the Ainemanes, the ancestral homes of the Kodavas. While inspired by the hilly terrain of Coorg which is dotted with lakes and ponds are the Lily Pool Villas that boast a bedroom, a living and en suite bathroom and with courtyards set around a lily pond! The décor, and architecture is done up to reflect the spirit of Coorg, and has left high-profile guests like Anil Kumble, Jonty Rhodes, and LK Advani truly enchanted! To get a holistic experience, take a guided tour of the 300-acre coffee and spice plantation; learn all about the fascinating fauna through a nature walk, take a coracle ride on the river and slip into the soul of this land. Once back at the property, allow masseurs and masseuses to soothe your body and mind with herbal baths and oil massages.Once hunger pangs ring in clear, you could either head to the numerous restaurants, or to the peppercorn deck built on the lake to dine with nature, or better still, enjoy a dinner laid out exclusively for you with candles and more at the pool deck. Desire something more mind-blowing? Then romance your love at the Machan, with an intimate treetop gourmet meal!

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Lip-smacking delights: The place offers everything from South Indian, North Indian, and Continental fare. But of course the pandi curry and coffee is not to be missed.

Location: Karadigodu Post, Siddapur, Coorg

Contact: 82742 58481

A night’s stay for two would approximately cost Rs.30, 000 plus taxes.

Arabidacool Bungalow – Chikmagalur

If you’re seeking serenity amidst old-world charm, then the red-roofed, white-walled and totally picturesque Arabidacool bungalow welcomes you with great warmth and affection. Nestled in greenery at 4,000 feet above sea level, this 102-year old bungalow at the foothills of Baba Budangiri, the birthplace of Arabica coffee in India, blends the grace and grandeur of an ancient past, with a personalized cook and butler giving guests a richly comfortable experience. The spacious rooms come with Victorian furniture and overlook the aromatic landscape. Guests vouch by the bean to cup tour that explores the story behind their daily cup of coffee, and provides interesting insights into coffee picking and harvesting while allowing them to soak in the thick green foliage. Naturalists at this bungalow, which is one of Tata Coffee’s oldest heritage properties, take you on a leisurely walk to discover unique flora and fauna. As you wake up the next morning after a good night’s sleep, sip o your cuppa and go on a guided bird-watching tour with a pair of binoculars and your camera to capture atleast a few of the over 300 species of birds nestled in the region, like the great black woodpecker, the hill myna, white-bellied blue flycatcher, or the Indian grey hornbill.

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Lip-smacking delights: The homely food, personalised by coffee planters’ wives, caters to varying tastebuds and inspires nostalgia from a bygone era. Guests should try the mutton hussainy curry, dak bungalow veg curry, lamb cutlet with imli chutney, koli curry with noolputtu.

Location: Arabidacool Division, Mylemoney Estate, Tata Coffee Ltd, Kaimara Post, Chikmagalur.

Contact: +91 80 23560761

Approximate cost for two for an overnight stay is Rs 6,000 plus taxes.

Club Mahindra Madikeri Resort – Coorg

Imagine living in a luxurious property surrounded by hills, valleys, grasslands, paddy fields, coffee plantations, orange orchards, pepper vines and cardamom plants? Wouldn’t it be pleasing to the eyes and therapeutic to your soul? Well, this family-friendly resort helps you do just that. Boasting two swimming pools and hordes of activities for your little kids at the fun zone, Club Mahindra Madikeri is a sprawling resort built in the local Ainmanes (Kodava) tradition. Set amidst a lush coffee plantation, the property comprising 220 studio rooms and one-bedroom suites, is done up in white and bright hues, that wonderfully reflect sunlight and provide splendid views of the plantations outside. You could choose to reenergise yourself at the Svaastha spa with some aromatic massages, or cycle around capturing misty views early morning, or better still, spend the day with your kids doing multiple crazy things at the activity centre. Remember, you’re at a resort that encourages you to reconnect with not just yourself, but your children as well. As you go about digging into the lavish Kodava, South Indian and North Indian delicacies, don’t forget to visit the quaint shop within the resort and buy some of the best coffee, honey and spices you can get anywhere.

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Lip-smacking delights: The live grills comprising achari paneer tikka, Chiang Mai grilled fish tikka, tahini chilly garlic mushroom barbeque are to die for. The Indian bread basket they present is varied with options like paneer kulcha, naan, roomali roti, etc.

Location: Club Mahindra, Galibeedu Road, Kalakeri Nidugane village, Madikeri, Coorg

Contact; 8272221114

Halli Berri Homestay – Chikmagalur

‘Halli’ in Kannada means village and Halli Berri or ‘village (coffee) berry’ provides the luxury of simplicity. Surrounded by the luscious Kambihalli coffee estate and supporting nearly 300 species of migratory birds, Halli Berri is sure to leave you mesmerised.  With no television and no wi-fi, your time at the homestay will allow you to reconnect with yourself. The Kariappa family, including mother Nalima and daughter Tejini strive to ensure you get a holistic experience at their home. Consisting of two warm cottages, the airy rooms with beautiful bay windows to stream in sunlight have been decorated with a blend of themes from English country and Japanese Zen to the Atthingudhi tradition. When here, don’t miss the barbeque dinner outdoors. Indulge in lots of nature treks to the plantations, pick ripe fruits and veggies from the nurseries and ask your hosts to cook them for your dinner! And don’t forget to experience the open shower within the cottages! The Kariappas say that the Director of Air France, Hicham Bennani recently indulged in some leisure at Halli Berri, taking long walks around the homestay, enjoying his meals cooked by chef Marie in solitude and telling them that it was one of his “best holidays.”

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Lip-smacking delights: Marie’s dishes are just superb. Try the pandi curry and the signature homemade cheesecake. The coffee shop at the homestay makes amazing coffee. Try the Arabica Halli Berri coffee, the omelettes and almond milkshake.

Location: Halli Berri Homestay, Kambihalli Estate, Santaveri Post, State Highway 57, Chikmagalur district, Athigiri

Contact: 9483523003

The approximate cost for two for an overnight stay is between Rs 6, 000 and 8,000 plus taxes.

Vivanta By Taj Madikeri – Coorg

Has Mercedes India CEO and MD Roland S Folger been the most high-profile guest here? Or was it Her Highness Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, the princess of Travancore? No matter who has stayed here, they’ve all gone back thoroughly charmed. And why not? Supremely isolated from civilisation and canopied by lush foliage as far as the eye can see, this 5-star retreat located in the heart of a 180-acre living, breathing rainforest is to be experienced at least once in your life. The design element here is minimalistic, while the interiors are deliberately muted to allow unhindered views of nature and have the rainforest make beguiling entries here and there.

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This granite infused property has tastefully done cottages with old restored and recycled wood being noticed extensively, including in the spa, while creative masterstrokes of the local tribes can be seen in the cane artefacts. The property beckons guests to relax, regale their bodies, minds and souls by enjoying the traditional wood-fired gudda bath at the Jiva Grande Spa. No matter how lazy you feel, you should certainly get your hands dirty and ignite your creative streaks by indulging in pottery and clay-modeling! And then clean up and relish the grills dinner under the night sky.

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Lip-smacking delights: Try out the organic local foods like air fried chicken, siri spinach dimsum as well as the kaad manga or wild mango curry and the famed pandi curry. And don’t miss their homemade range of ice-creams!

Location: Vivanta By Taj – Madikeri, 1st Monnageri, Galibeedu Post, Madikeri, Coorg.

Contact: 8272665800

Rates per night (for two) are upwards of Rs 17,100 depending on the room type.

Celeb Speak

Paresh Lamba, well-known designer says, “I recently stayed at the Vivanta By Taj- Madikeri and it was a wonderful experience. Being a Bengalurean, Coorg is an apt location for a long weekend getaway.  A massive and well-maintained property, the entire resort essentially goes on a hill making every view breathtaking. The staff is friendly and courteous to your needs. It worked out well for us as we wanted a relaxed holiday.”

Honey Valley – Coorg

This one is a complete thriller. Perched atop a mountain and surrounded by rainforests is Honey Valley, a traditional Coorgi stay with the hosts, the Chengappa family.  You have to leave your car at the base, unless it’s a 4×4 and trek up the pristine path feeling every inch a native. A base camp for Coorg’s tallest peak, Mt. Thadiyandamol, this homestay provides no luxury, but instead an enriching experience where you can connect with your soul. With five comfortable guest facilities, two tribal huts and an estate guest house, Honey Valley helps you truly connect with the way of life in the mountainous Coorg. Spend time with birds, butterflies, dogs, cows, donkeys and other animals that are the other residents of this homestay. Remember, this is the Chengappa home and they’re letting you in, not a resort. So don’t expect room service, bellboys and the like. You will definitely feel good here and a part of the family hosting you. Most guests at this place trek up Coorg’s highest peak, with some packed food to satiate hunger and some salt to prick the leeches (in monsoons)! Honey Valley is a haven for writers, poets, photographers, trekkers, artists, thinkers and nature lovers, some of who choose to do nothing but stare at the surrounding natural beauty and meditate.

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Lip-smacking delights: The breakfast, lunch and dinner is cooked by the family and is homely comfort food. The appam and stew are fabulous. So are a range of vegetable gravies flavoured with coconut, mustard and curry leaves.

Location: Honey Valley, PO YavakaPady, Coorg

Contact: 08272 238339

A night’s stay in the ‘tranquil’ will cost around Rs 2,300 plus taxes.