From bean to caffeine

journey of the cuppa

From bean  to caffeine

Surrounded by the green hills of Mullayyanagiri and Baba Budangiri, in a sylvan locale of Chikkamagaluru town is the Coffee Museum. An initiative of the Coffee Board, it was launched in 2005 in the coffee heartland of Karnataka. The main intention of this museum was to create a thematic display of coffee history so that one can understand the journey of this popular beverage.

The threshold of the uniquely designed, plantation-styled building greets you with potted coffee plants. The foyer is a gallery of posters showcasing India’s coffee
varieties with details such as elevation, rainfall and the main types of coffee grown. For easy viewing, there is a coffee map highlighting the traditional coffee growing regions of India — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and the non-traditional zones — Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and the North East.

The entrance greets you with a planter’s song written by renowned Kannada poet  Nage Gowda. Playing as background music, its haunting melody rings in your ears as you glance through the various charts displayed on the well-lit walls.

A walkway leads you to a Fact and Evaluation Centre, where a professional guide will take you on a coffee journey. On display in the section are the dried coffee beans of the Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora (commonly known as robusta). The price of coffee is determined based on the size of the bean and the arabica bushes though smaller than the robusta plants, produce beans of a slightly bigger size.

Extensive repository
We are then introduced to the world of speciality coffee, which is usually export-oriented. We have the Mysore Nugget and Kaapi Royale, both inspired by the
Maharajas of Mysore, and the monsoon coffee, which was discovered accidently when coffee beans were transported to Europe by sea and were exposed to the monsoon and salty breeze and produced an extraordinary flavour. The Monkey
Parchment coffee (brewed from beans chewed by Rhesus monkeys) and the Kopi Luwak (Indonesia) or Kape Alamid (Philippines), where the beans are collected from the droppings of the common palm civet cat, whose digestive process gives it a distinct aroma and flavour, are also on display. 

You can also find antique coffee grinding machines dating back to the 14th century in the museum. In fact, some of the collectibles have been retrieved from the British and the Dutch colonial eras with their brass handles and fancy embellishments intact. To show how the coffee world has progressed, one of the exhibits displays modern Italian expresso machines and the coffee roasters and makers from USA that have invaded the market ever since coffee became a popular beverage. The traditional South Indian percolators or filters are also on display and the Japanese paper filters found there reveal that coffee has a universal appeal.

A bit of history
For a wholesome experience of coffee in just Rs 20, watch the video depicting coffee production processes – from nurturing the sapling and taking care of the bushes to the blossoming of coffee flowers and the harvesting procedure. Showcased on the wall are interesting facts about the origin of coffee and its foray into our country — discovered by the Ethiopian goatherd, Kaldi in the 6th century, making inroads into Sufi monasteries of Yemen and the Ottoman Turks taking it to Europe and of course, the legendary tale of Baba Budan bringing it to India in 1670. The Boston Tea Party episode and the subsequent colonisation by the European countries pushed coffee to South American and Asian nations in a major fashion.

The growth of coffee and some landmark milestones in the process are chronologically displayed. By looking at the exhibits on the journey of coffee as a commercial beverage, you can learn that coffee expresso was first started in the year 1822 AD in France, when the coffee served to the French troops before war fell short and milk was added to increase the volume. In 1935 AD, Francesco Illy of Italy started the auto expresso, which is a popular coffee-vending machine today. The instant coffee culture was introduced by Nestle in 1938 AD. You can also learn about the various diseases that infest the coffee crop by looking at the specimens of stem and berry borers, and other insects, the combination for spraying of insecticides, the techniques of applying fertilisers and the timeline for the work undertaken to maintain estates.  This Coffee Museum is certainly a treasure trove of knowledge, for both the novice as well as the connoisseur of coffee and is  an encyclopedia of our beloved caffeinated beverage.

Getting there:
The Museum is situated behind the Zilla Panchayat office on Kadur Road. It is open from 10 am-1 pm and 2 pm-5.30 pm on all weekdays except on Saturday, Sunday and government holidays. Do pay it a visit!

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