Spread over 4000 sq km in Karnataka’s southwest is one of the state’s most picturesque districts and home to the Kodavas: the coffee town of Coorg.
Kannada films like Mungaru Male have shaped my image of Coorg – a lush green paradise that is one of India’s most breathtaking monsoon travel destinations. Just the kind of setting you need to find to reignite romance. It was not romance that brought us to Coorg; just the undying love for coffee.
Coorg is the anglicised version of Kodagu and the Kodavas who are very proud of their ‘Kshatriya’ roots have made the best of the region’s fertile lands. There is no dearth of accommodation options in Coorg. There are luxury hotels like Orange County and the all-new Vivanta by the Taj at one end of the spectrum and well-managed ‘home stay’ options at the other end. But we opted to stay within the confines of a coffee estate to experience the true ‘flavour’ of Coorg.
Reminiscence of the Raj
Plantation Trails owned by Tata Coffee has painstakingly restored seven historic bungalows located within its large estates in Coorg. Once retreats for British estate managers, these luxurious bungalows have now been converted into well-appointed accommodation options. As we checked into the Cottabetta plantation bungalow ensconced in the Polibetta coffee estate we could almost visualise life here in the times of the Raj. Restoring a 130 year old residence can be a tricky job and this is where Plantation Trails triumphs making subtle changes without sacrificing the charm of another era. From four-poster beds to fireplaces there are enough wow elements to keep you engaged. An elaborate lunch greeted me on arrival and there is nothing more comforting than a home-style meal after a gruelling five and a half hour road trip from Bangalore.
Coorg has three splendid courses and the Tata Coffee Course is just 5 minutes away from the bungalow. It is a well-maintained nine-hole course and despite the deficient monsoons, the greens wear a verdant sheen. The undulations of hill station courses pose their share of challenges but the nip in the air more than compensates.
Everything about this once landlocked region is unique and nothing is more unique than Coorgi cuisine. There was once a time when hunting and gaming were a way of life; there may be curbs on hunting now but thankfully most of the signature Coorg dishes have survived. The Pandi (pork) curry is probably the most emblematic of them all and the Plantation trails version is as authentic as they come. Other dishes like the stir fried raw jackfruit and the tender bamboo shoot curry (only in season) are equally scrumptious. The Coorgis are big rice eaters and their puttus (steamed rice dishes) like the kadamputtu (ball shaped) and the nooputu (threaded) make the perfect accompaniments to their zesty curries. It is all part of the quintessential Coorg ‘kadi (food) and kudi’ (drink) experience.