As I sipped my 18th cup of coffee for the day, I couldn’t help thinking of the French litterateur Honore de Balzac, who used to have 40 cups a day. He died of a coffee overdose. As I took another sip, I looked around, savouring the robusta as much as the vast stretches of coffee plants that surrounded me. If I had to go, I thought, I couldn’t have chosen a better place. Before the British had anglicised its name and transformed Siddapur’s lush forest cover into sprawling coffee estates, it used to be a sleepy hamlet called Siddhapura, or ‘the place of the divine’. It did seem the work of some divine hand that had blessed Siddapur with optimal rainfall and gently undulating terrain. The balance was just right, which is what made this not just the heart, but also the soul of coffee country.
The drive to Siddapur is wonderfully scenic, and the road beyond no less: the winding road to Ammathi, 8 km beyond, twists and turns past coffee estates. A further 10-km drive takes you to the planters’ paradise, Pollibetta (12 km from Siddapur by a short-cut). From there, the road forks. The turn to the left takes you to the thickly forested Titimati (11 km) and the right, to the trading town of Gonikoppal (8 km). Together, they form Coorg’s very own Golden Quadrilateral, an area that’s about coffee, the abundance of nature, a spot of golf or high adventure, and the benevolence of the rain-god Igguthappa. Most of the resorts that are scattered around the area double up as excellent bases for excursions, bird watching and exploring the local flora.
To those who refer to Coorg as ‘60-40’ (the district’s dimension in miles), the expression ‘Still hope Ammathi’ might also ring a bell. The small village has been immortalised as the beacon of hope for the hopeless, a symbol of optimism in the face of sure defeat. Pollibetta is home to a beautiful 9-hole golf course run by Tata Coffee that has a picturesque guest house on its premises. Usually, only Tata employees and distinguished guests have access to the golf course, but of late, it has been opened to visitors too.
Homestays offering a variety of adventure activities and slow-cooked Coorgi food dot the Golden Quadrilateral. Do book well in advance as these are some of the most popular homestays in Coorg. For variety, you’ll find roadside hotels that sell everything from Kodava specialities like pandi curry to Moplah variations of stuffed bread. All the estates sell excellent home-grown robusta coffee and pepper.
Location: Siddapur is the heart of Coorg’s coffee country, 31 km from Madikeri.
Distance: 228 km SW of Bengaluru
Journey time: By road 6 hrs
When to go: Siddapur has its moods throughout the year. From January to May, the air becomes heavy with the jasmine-like fragrance of white coffee blossoms. The only time Siddapur is to be avoided is in the heavy monsoon months. Even then, there’s nothing like watching the advent of the rains with a steaming cup of robusta in your hands.
By Anurag Mallick
About the author: From copy-writing to travel writing and a rock band to radio station, Anurag Mallick is a nomad at heart and writer by choice.