I wrote about our weekend in Coorg in my previous post. While writing it, I realized that we had so much fun there; it deserved a few more posts! For instance, take the case of Madikeri – the key hill station town of Coorg. We spent only a few hours in the town and yet they will remain etched in our memories as really incredible, although all we did was to EAT and SHOP.
Allow me to take you around some of the places in Madikeri where you can do the same!
Coffee: The most important thing in your shopping list. You are in coffee country and you just can’t leave the place without carrying a few packets of the rich brew. Did you know that Coorg produces the largest amount of coffee in the country?
As we drove around the city’s market area, our olfactory senses were pleasantly assailed by the heady aroma of strong coffee. Finally, we could not take it anymore and decided to begin our quest for the perfect coffee shop. And herein lay the problem – there were scores of shops selling coffee (powder) and each one looked to be the ‘One’. We peeked into each shop, stood irresolutely on the door-step and moved on. And then we came to this little establishment in a non-descript lane – Ganesh Coffee Shop. It looked quite ordinary and at the same time, fairly charming.
The board above the shop told us that it was established way back in 1965, so that made the shop 48 years old. The aroma of freshly ground coffee emanating from the shop engulfed the entire lane and enticed us to enter its premises.
There was a huge bowl of coffee beans at the counter while an interesting coffee grinding contraption fiercely worked out to produce fine coffee powder. The floor of the shop had wooden boards and we could feel the powerful reverberations of the machine underneath our feet. There were also several remarkable paper clippings pinned to a soft-board on the wall, one of them extolling the goodness of chicory.
It was plain that the shop was an old timer and probably popular with the local populace for their coffee requirements. I inferred this from the number of customers who visited the place in the short span of time that we were there. Most of them lingered around for some chit-chat with the manager (owner?) of the shop, reflecting typical small town behavior where people treated every acquaintance as a part of their extended family.
The business at Ganesh Coffee Shop was simple. You take your pick out of the four varieties offered, specify the amount you require, make payment. We opted to buy 1 kilo each of the Robusta and Chicory Mix variety. The packets are still lying at home unopened though, waiting for the right opportunity to spread coffee-induced happiness!
So, coffee is done. Let’s move on.
Coorg honey: Make some space for a few bottles of sweet honey produced in the region. Did you know that Coorg was the largest producer of honey in the country until 1994?
Coorg had been the honey-bowl of the country, till imported bees carrying ‘Thai sac brood disease’ entered the region, infecting local bees and effectively wiping out the honey industry in Coorg. As a matter of fact, the owner of Honey Valley Estates, where we had put up, was a pioneer in the commercial beekeeping business and had a thriving trade till the disease struck. Thankfully, according to him, since the bees in India are more or less wild they have the strength to rejuvenate and have begun a strong comeback. But since the virus cannot be wiped off entirely, commercial beekeeping won’t be possible using local bees.
In any case, we could still see huge bee-hives hanging from tree branches, sometimes upto 7-8 hives on a single tree! It actually became a game for my sis and me, of detecting bee-hives. “Did you see that one? No? You missed it!” We kept on jibing each other.
So, finally when we saw these golden, gleaming bottles of honey, stacked in rows in Madikeri, we just had to buy them. I love spreading a gossamer coat of honey on my toast and so does the husband. Although my parents are diabetic and Deta told us stories of how honey is ‘artificially’ produced, we still went ahead and bought a big bottle. I saw my mom give Deta a ‘look’ and he tamely bought a small bottle as well. No, you must not miss out on Coorg honey.
Spices and home-made chocolates: Replenish your spice needs and your chocolate fix in Madikeri. ‘Nuff said!
Coorg is a treasure house of myriad spices, ranging from pepper, cloves, cardamom to kokum and cinchona. While I am not aware of how the other spice plants look like, there was plenty of evidence regarding pepper. Pepper is grown along with coffee in Coorg, on large shady trees. We could see pepper vines entwining these trees and lending them a rather decorative look. For some reason, I was reminded of our ‘money plant’ at home, clinging around a moss covered stump that we had bought from Lalbagh.
Madikeri is dotted with shops selling spices. We entered a ‘nice looking’ shop, its shelves stacked high with goodies and decided to make our purchases there. There were spices packed in various combinations – some in large jars and some in small packets. We picked a range of spices, including a few gift packs.
The husband and sis, who had serious ‘sweet tooth’s opted to purchase some home-made chocolates as well. We had heard that the quality of these chocolates was not as high as the ones you get in Ooty, but it did not matter to us. A chocolate by any name remains a chocolate to addicts such as my sis and husband.
At long last, our shopping expedition came to an end. By that time, we were starved to the core. The husband had done a sensible thing though – he had asked the manager of Ganesh Coffee Shop regarding a restaurant serving typical Kodava food and the amiable person had recommended one name - Coorg Cuisine, nearby. We located the restaurant quite easily and clambered up the steps to it.
It was a quite a modest but neat and spacious place. Various arms and weapons signifying the Kodava coat-of-arms were aligned on the walls, each depicting the courage and fighting spirit of the people of Coorg. However, like all small towns, the waiter (I could see only one) was languid and we had to wait for some time before he came to take our order. Thankfully, the chef turned out to be more active.
I am not good in remembering names, especially of traditional cuisine, but every dish turned out to be delicious. Since Deta was averse to pork, the husband and I made an excuse to sit at another table and surreptitiously ordered a plate of the famed pandi curry, the spicy porcine delight of the region. The taste was enough for us to try replicating the same once we were back at home. Meanwhile, my mom who prefers vegetarian food, loved her kuru curry which seemed to be a beans based dish, along with noolputtu (steamed rice noodles). Sadly, we were too busy to click any picture of our lunch.
A satisfying and hearty meal was what Coorg Cuisine was all about. It was a perfect ending to our Madikeri jaunt. I am sure there is more to Madikeri besides what we witnessed that day. We had tackled just one facet of it – the retail side. But there are bound to be many more. We shall keep those to another day, another visit. Bye for now!