An amalgamation of ‘Halli’, meaning village in Kannada and ‘berri’, a quirky twist on the coffee berry, Halli Berri, one of the many coffee plantations in India’s coffee country, Chikmaglur, is the closest you can come to coffee nirvana. The first thing that welcomes you and sets the mood for the experience at this 180-acre plantation is the riotously colourful Sera Bel plant.
Surrounded by lush greens and a myriad of flora and fauna are two cottages and a quaint coffee shop, the Coffee Barn Cafe – that are the pride of Kambihalli Estate, owned by Nalima Kariappa and her three daughters. And it has all ingredients of a fairytale and idyllic winter getaway – homemade cakes, fireplace, long walking trails and perhaps an opportunity to participate in the coffee harvesting that takes place from November through January.
And if you do get time from trying to spot and identify the nearly 250 species of birds that call Kambihalli home, Mari, the family cook will ply you with Malanad and Coorgi gastronomic delights such as akki rotis (rice rotis), served with melt-in-the-mouth mutton meatball curry or dosa served with egg bhurji. I suggest when you see pork in any form on the table, eat with focused attention because you are not getting this pork anywhere in the world!
Once ensconced inside your cottage you are in a different world altogether – because the estate residence is a good kilometre away. You will want to talk in whispers so you don’t disturb the serenading crickets.
A good idea is to rise early and just sit in the veranda outside – if you are perfectly silent, you might just see a wild boar shyly negotiating the undergrowth. Though I was told there are panthers and tigers that visit the estate, none blessed me with their presence – except for a tell-tale pug-mark that was just a day old. I did see a glimpse of sambhar deer as they scampered away after a quick sip at one of the many pools dotting the estate. Harvest time has the whole estate buzzing with activity – workers plucking the coffee berries, some transferring it to the pulping unit, some sorting the coffee beans and yet others packing into bags for sending it for roasting. As if this weren’t enough, there will be ospreys, hornbills, babblers and all kinds of feathered beauties whizzing past paniculata trees in full bloom.
You will find perfect serenity here – away from the hustle and bustle of city life. So committed are the owners to giving their guests the perfect coffee plantation experience that you will not find TVs in the cottages and a very limited BSNL signal, asides from no wi-fi or internet.
In fact, Halli Berri is not a place where you come chasing starred luxury and comforts. The cottages are a perfect meeting point where rustic country life meets classic-modernist design and stylish yet warm interiors. Colonial style brickwork and vintage furniture, high-beamed ceiling, white brick-walls, designer tiled floors will instantly charm you. But wait, the USP of the cottages lies in an outdoor shower area connected to the really mammoth bath and powder room. What’s more, the water in the shower faucet is supplied via water heated in a copper cauldron – to make the bath ‘mineral-rich’. A shower under the cerulean skies is an experience that is strongly recommended. Warm yourself after that at the traditional fireplace in the evening or a private sit out facing the hills, located in the midst of a working coffee estate, during the day.
The dark-leaved coffee growing between bars of silver oak, dense pepper vines and fertile orange trees was a welcome change from drab city views. Halli Berri’s distance from civilisation is its best charm. So as you sit on the planter’s chair, taking a swig of the robust Arabica, enjoy it – it will perhaps be the best coffee break you could ever ask for.
By:Aarti Kapur Singh