Coffee Knowledge Hub
Episode #2

Indian native species, exotic species, biodiversity and glocalisation - modern coffee farming in India with South India Coffee Co

"Our beans are larger. Our beans are denser. Our beans are heavier. " exploring the benefits of biodiversity and experimenting with endemic opportunities for coffee in the Coorg region of India

Posted on 30 marzo 2023
Indian native species, exotic species, biodiversity and glocalisation - modern coffee farming in India with South India Coffee Co

Show notes

Do you want to taste the excelsa coffee mentioned in this interview? We are offering a multifaceted tasting experience - Liberica excelsa processed 3 ways and a robusta grown organically with shade and non-organically without shade. Let's explore the sensory potenital of these coffees together. Sign up here and we will update you with details - Sign up here

You may have seen Liberica in the news recently, there is lots of discussion about its resistance to some of the impacts of global warming. The excelsa we are offering for tasting has a distinctive flavour profile. As Akshay says in the interview - you can taste fruit flavours through the milk. We have liimited quantities, 5kg of each process, and we will offer them on a first come first served basis.

For the robustas, we are interested to know if you can taste the difference in quality between a robusta grown under shade, organically compared to non-organic and full sun.


[00:00:00] Andrew: Welcome to the coffee knowledge hub. I am Andrew Tolley, and I'm pleased to present this conversation with Komal and Akshay from south India coffee company. Over the last six months since the world of coffee and Milan, I've been talking to Komal and Akshay about the work they had been doing on their farm and in their region with other farmers.

It is a fascinating story. And every time we speak a new layer is revealed . In early conversations, we were talking about biodiversity, carbon sequestration, soil health, and whether there is any positive impact of all these elements on the flavor profiles, plant health and sustainability pillars of environmental, and economic on their farm.

The question we wanted to answer was. Can well manage to stainable farm, have both a positive impact on the environment, the cup quality and the economics of farming. But at the end of the conversation recorded in February, 2023, we covered a whole lot more. Learning about native Indian coffee species, local processing methods, the potential [00:01:00] for excelsor Liberica, which is growing well on their farm and some fascinating insights into coffee, agronomy, soil, the value of bricks as a measure and a whole lot more.

So please enjoy the conversation. With Komal and Akshay.

[00:01:28] Andrew: Welcome Komal and Akshay from South India Coffee Company. How are you doing? Can you introduce yourselves.

[00:01:36] Komal: Hi. Andrew, Thank you for having So my name is Komal and that's Akshay, we both run South India, Coffee Co and South India Coffee co is. Indian speciality coffee house where we produce and source specialty coffees in India with different producers and put it out. We are currently working in the uk you can find our coffees in [00:02:00] Netherlands Saudi Arabia and Singapore, and hopefully in the US as well soon.

[00:02:06] Andrew: Great. And h how did you get into this Komal? What's your background?

[00:02:10] Komal: Yeah, that's a good question. So I have, I really had absolutely no knowledge about coffee when I started, which is about four, five years ago. However, Akshay has been in and around coffee for a really long

[00:02:24] Akshay: time.

must add, I knew nothing about coffee either. , .

[00:02:26] Komal: I got into coffee because I think in the uk, so actually we've been living in the UK for the last 12 years. And at that point when we were in London I saw the coffee culture was changing and we could see these different origins coming in and I didn't see any Indian coffee there.

And coming back to Akshay roots, he had his family has a coffee plantation here in India and in Coorg. And when I got married I saw that this is this beautiful coffee plantation and I can't believe, I couldn't believe that this is what coffee [00:03:00] looks like. And we weren't really talking about it.

And I said, we must talk about this. So we weren't doing anything about coffee at that point of time when we were in London. And that's how I got started talking to a few people, just knocked on a few doors. Probably not a lot of people knew India does Arabicas.

They were mostly, most of the roasters thought it was Indian robustas and it wasn't something that UK was ready for at that point of time. So I said, you know what we do fantastic Arabicas as well. And that's how I got in a very small shipment of my first Arabicas into the uk. And that's how I started my journey in


[00:03:40] Andrew: Akshay you've grown up around coffee, but you say you, you dunno much about it or you didn't know much about it. Tell us your story.

[00:03:46] Akshay: Basically I am a fifth generation coffee planter at the moment, at least. And growing up I, I grew up in Bangalore, which is about 300 kilometers from the coffee farm.

Went to school in Bangalore, but every vacation was here with my grandparents on the coffee [00:04:00] farm. That's all, it was a vacation. My grand my grandfather didn't believe there was a future to coffee. know, There's four grandkids my two cousins, my daughter and myself. And he didn't really encourage any of us to actually learn too much about the coffee because he wanted us all to make our own way.

. And we've all done our own things and I moved to the UK in 2008, did my masters there. Ended up working in tech after, from my own tech company. So that was, really my journey. Most coffee planters in India do not drink their own coffee. They do not drink coffee.

They mostly tea drinkers. I know growing up. So my grandfather's idea of a weekly outing was heading to the bank every week to withdraw the salaries for for the workers on the estate. And when we are sitting in the bank manager's cabin, he's offered coffee. My grandfather does not touch coffee.

And and he drinks the coffee and ask him why? Why does he drink coffee in public? He's no, in public. We need to have this front where, we drink coffee at home, we do what we want, we drink tea. However, I think when I was 13 or 14. I started drinking coffee during my holidays.[00:05:00]

And it was only this one type of coffee that, that we had. And my granddad would say, this is the best coffee, although it's not sold commercially. And this was what we call Marak. In in, in the local language, which is Tree coffee if you translate it. And that is either liberica or excelsa.

And Liberica excelsa has a sort of fruity notes those days I used to only drink milk coffees, and you could still get the fruity notes through the milk. And then I thought that was very unique and asked grandad why aren't we selling this commercially? No it's really good stuff.

We roasted and keep it all to ourselves, . And only later did I realized that there's no commodity market for the coffee, which is why it was stored at home. But subconsciously, I always thought that, the excelsa and liberica and Live Americas were the best, coffees on the planet. That was up. We came to the UK anyway.

Come 2017 ac actually in my tech company, my business partners Italian, so we had a lot of mocha mocha pots during the day. And we usually bring our own coffees. At the time it was just a box standard washed coffees, no fermentation, [00:06:00] roasted locally sometimes roasted on this old coal roaster that we had on the farm.

Tiny drum. You roasted, grinded, at home and. and we to dig a lot of that. 2014, 1516, 2017, Konal started looking at exports, which is when, I realized we started visiting London Coffee Festival. I said, she's gonna be selling specialty coffee. I need to understand what this is.

We're gonna sell it. I need to believe in the product. Honestly, the whole specialty coffee journey started 2017, 18, boom. Actually, coffee journey in general. Up, up to the, up to that point, we didn't really focus on the farm. It was only in 2019 that we started. 2018, we started taking active role in, in processing.

It started with us coming back during the harvest period November, December, Jan, and actually processing coffees based on feedback from some roasters in the. .

[00:06:48] Introduction End

[00:06:48] Andrew: You can learn a huge amount in five years though, right? We're already at 2023, so it's a , I'm sure you've had a very full immersion , into the world of coffee production.

And the London and UK coffee markets have [00:07:00] changed a lot in five years. So I think it's, the great thing about coffee is that it is it's highly caffeinated and it's ever-evolving. So you you have to bring something new And so Southeast India Coffee, sorry, south India Coffee Company.

[00:07:11] Describing the region

[00:07:11] Andrew: You are, you're focused on a a few different markets and you're bringing coffee from your region to to those markets. And it's both coffee from your own farm, but also other farmers and people in the area that you're working with. Can you describe the region? Tell me more about the landscape around you.

You're on the farm at the moment. What's what does it look like outside? Yeah.

[00:07:32] Akshay: You want me to take

[00:07:33] Komal: it? Yeah, go for it.

[00:07:34] Akshay: Our farms on the lower slopes of the Western Ghatts in Coorg. We are the north of Coorg just at the base of the pushba mountain range. The closest peak to us is you'd, about 20 odd kilometers away, is about thousand six 800 meters here are at about we are at the moment at about eight 50.

However, the the main farm is at about a thousand now what's very interesting is south India is on the deck plateau. [00:08:00] So Bangalore although we are considered as a hill station, Bangalore is actually higher than us at this point. So it's on the second plateaus. When you come in from Bangalore and you drive towards the west, which is where the coffee farms are in the south you climb down the plateau first, and then you start climbing up the Ghatts.

Now the western Ghats are

[00:08:16] Komal: the so it's one of the, one of the top 10 biodiverse hotspots in the world, which means that a lot of things like the flora fauna a lot of the bird species, the biodiversity in general is not accounted. There's not been enough research for it to be documented.

So that, that is something that, that really fascinates us with this region.

[00:08:40] Akshay: Now, the two oldest coffee growing regions in in India are Chikmanglur and Coorg, both in Karnataka. However, now you also have other coffee regions in Kerala, Wayanad In Tamil Nadu , You've got the Pulney hills, you've got Yercaud.

Now everyone's talking about Araku and and in, in India the coffee from Orissa in the Koraput region is getting popular, [00:09:00] is also coffee coming in from from the northeast. However, we are really focused on at the moment now Coorg was known by the British as the Scotland of India.

Again, this is because the north the north of Coorg is a bit like the Scottish Islands. So you've got got parts of the Bhramagiri mountain range. The pushpagiri mountain range, where we are at the base of. It's, it's actually very beautiful. Goes up to about thousand 1700 - 1800 Meters above sea level is the highest point in Coorg, I think.

Thousand, 900 or 2000 in Chikmanglur I'm not sure. We have to look at Bababudangiri there's this whole myth about the Bababudan coffee is per myth or fact or whatever it is about Brother Budan coffees in, iin India. So that's in Chickmanglur that's probably the highest peak in Karnataka .

That's great Coffee. Sure. [00:09:46] Andrew: I was just in Melbourne where there's a roaster very known, well-known roaster called Seven Seeds. And one of their cafes is called brother Bubba Budan. Yeah. And it's for the listeners who are not aware of brother Bubba Boudan, do you wanna tell us the [00:10:00] story of brother Bubba Budan?

[00:10:01] Komal: Sure. So the story goes that the Sufi sa called Baba Boudan came down to India, smuggling seven seeds of coffee from from Mecca. And he sewed these seeds in in this place called

[00:10:18] Akshay: in, sorry.

[00:10:22] Komal: in ba and so the so there, there's, there are a couple of peaks there, and in which those peaks.

And that's how India's supposed to have coffee since he got these seats here. That's one of the stories that a lot of people go by.

[00:10:36] Akshay: Supposed, supposed to have coffee. Everybody had coffee. So this is, we're gonna go into this detail later. So Yeah, we had coffee for a long time.

[00:10:43] Andrew: Yes. Yeah. . Yeah. The, it's a good, it's a good story, but doesn't quite add up with the with the facts. Like many good stories. , but sorry, I cut you off going. Tell us more about the region.

[00:10:52] Akshay: The south of Coorg is rolling hills.

Think Cotswalds . Yep. And there's, and as you come north, it [00:11:00] gets a bit, again, think of Scotland. South is flatter. The north goes is rougher higher. So that's a bit like Coorg. . And so our farm is actually by the by a dam. So we've got ample water. And ours again is, like I said it's the it's the basis again.

Rolling. It's rolling hills. And if you if we look at the regions where the British planted coffee, because we are all we've had coffee for a long time, 17, 18, 17 hundreds. And a lot of the older growing stretches of coffee in India have all been planted between at about nine 50 to 1,100 by the British.

These are the old farms. The newer farms have gone up higher, all lower. But one thing that's very obvious is the traditional farms are all in this range. Now again, altitude is actually a combination of latitude was and yeah. And the altitude. So I guess they've they identified this re this altitude as the best for yield

And cut.

[00:11:59] Andrew: [00:12:00] Sure. What's the average temperature or temperature range?

[00:12:02] Akshay: Now, or let's say about 20, 25 years ago? Both . Okay.

Our high our highest temperature during summer is about 34 degrees, while the lowest during winter is about 12.

. .

I think it depend a little lower this year. 10? Yeah, about

[00:12:17] Komal: 10, 10, 12.


[00:12:18] Akshay: But if you go back historically, I think 28 was the average high and about nine, eight was the lowest. Sure. So if you see the temperature rate was ideal for a bit of, especially in this building. Yeah. But we are getting warmer.

[00:12:33] Andrew: Yes. Yeah. That's quite significant, isn't it?

It's six degrees or so. Wonderful. And so we've got a picture of rolling hills and incredibly biodiverse. That means lots of native plants, native animals Flush green vegetation. I'm imagining what does it look like in terms of the canopy and the of with your farm?

So the trees are, what's the percentage of shade? What's the ground cover?

[00:12:59] Shade trees and soil

[00:12:59] Akshay: Andrew[00:13:00] the thing is see now we've been working with some small farms up in the bush, spaghetti Highlands. And a lot of their tree covers what we would've had a few hundred years ago. Now our regions have all been cultivated for the last three, 400 years.

So a lot of the lot of Taiwan one shade is are although they're native, some of them are natives, some aren't the mainly timber trees. We've got some trees have been planted two, 300 years ago, but they all, they're timber oriented trees. Our region is between going from des deciduous to ever Evergreen Green Forest.

So we are, we have we have some plant material that's desiduous. We have some that's evergreen. And a lot of Silver oak, which has been plant, which is planted 60 to a hundred years ago for Timber value, which is not native. It's been introduced from from Australia. And it was also so Black Pepper is native to our belt.

Silver Oaks planted, so Black pepper can cl use, use it as a supporting tree as well as Timber value. now our our farm was traditionally a hundred percent Arabica. We've, [00:14:00] our shade coverage was between 60 to 80%. Now, that's what makes Indian coffee quite unique.

We have a lot of leaf litter. We have a lot of organic matter in the soy highest organic ma content in sizeable six and 5%. Our lowest is three, which has 0% shade. Tell

[00:14:19] Andrew: us more about that. So what are those measures? Three and a half to, or six. Three to six and a half percent in terms of soil.

What? Organic Explain. Oh, organic matter. Okay.

[00:14:28] Akshay: Yep. I think we we were talking to scientists earlier who worked with, who works with new coffee board. I think the average in India is about two to 3%, which is still. quite high. I think most countries are at 0.75 to 1.5%.

So we are well above the average and farms such as ours are much, much higher. Yeah. Now our region has been slowly moving to robust US now for robust us. Robust production. Your internal distance reduces when you reduce shade. So what one of the reasons for our temperature increases because a lot of the shade has been [00:15:00] removed.

, however we we, at the moment, we are about 60% robust 40%. However, Aruba Robusta cultivated under 60% shade. Prob well, while the sweet spot for robusta cultivation is between 20 to 30% in India of course other countries I can't speak for most of them cultivate completely open.

So it's yeah. And some of the trees we've the residue trees are rosewood, te we have something called all hardwood trees. Most species are hardwood. The,

[00:15:30] Komal: there's pigs, there are lots of big trees. One thing, which is quite important, yeah, the focuses, which are important for the in general, for the biodiversity, which kind of feeds all the birds throughout the year.

There's certain victories that, that, fruits at certain part parts of the time of the year and where it's great for different migratory birds, different birds to come in and feed on them. So that makes a big difference in the way the coffee is grown, which is on the shelf

[00:15:59] Akshay: wild [00:16:00] cinnamon wild, nutmeg make tamarin wild mango.

These are ar traditional tree cover.

[00:16:05] Komal: And I think that would be, so just, not just our farms, but we, the farms that we work with there are a number of farms that we work with in Cook and Chilo, and this, they all have a percentage of native and juries, which is which the coffee's grown under,

[00:16:23] Andrew: right?

So let's so it sounds like a a very tasty landscape if nothing else you got,

[00:16:29] Akshay: There's also issues, right? Yeah, this, because, so now we got the tire one shade, tire two. We've been using a native species called s and that's nitrogen fixing. And the thing is with silver Lo example, decomposition takes a few months.

With data, you have leave decomposition happening in 20 days. , so it's excellent for the soy. There's also a South American variety called gia, which is used as well. And that's, that serves the same purpose. Now because we got this much shade, we also have higher levels of humidity. So what [00:17:00] that means is that our leaf rust our conditions are ideal for leaf rust outbreaks, especially during the monsoons.

Yeah. So I think we've got one of the highest instances of leaf rust anywhere in the world because of this high humidity yeah. Caused by the by the shade.

[00:17:17] Andrew: Okay. Yeah. Let's take a step back though and talk about soil. And soil health and the effect on quality. Cause I know you've done a lot of work on that.

And you have incredibly rich soil. So can you tell us more about the work you've done with soil management? No. See,

[00:17:35] Akshay: This is I mean

[00:17:37] Agronomy and fertilising

[00:17:37] Akshay: our learning is no by no means come to any sort of conclusion at this point because we are learning stuff every day. And stuff we read today proves something else, or some stuff we learned today proves a theory we've had in the past wrong.

And look, we have to move as we learn more. However, what I mean, coming from a tech background, a data oriented background, what we've done is we've got separate blocks on the farm that we've been treating differently [00:18:00] to try and understand. And again this isn't like tech where, you have.

Realtime feedback. Our feedback loops are massive. So it takes a year, two years, three years, four years, even after five years, first to actually understand if certain things we're doing has a positive or negative impact. However so we've got one block of arabica now. What we've done is we've stopped doing any sort of ground application of fertilizer.

So we are only doing foliar. We've been told this isn't going to work, but they're fine to take a chance because my understanding is, see the more chemicals react to the soil essentially because of leeching and there's gonna be aba imbalance and is the actual quality of the soil is going to go down.

We are not equipped at the moment because, we've been setting up the farm from scratch, so we haven't set up a proper composting strategy yet. , but up to I think the the coming year that is on the roadmap part. Up to then what we've said is we are letting the weeds grow. We, any sort of weeding is basically just chopping off the heads of the weeds, so they decompose [00:19:00] and add the organic matter.

The plants are fed. This is a new block of Arabica. The plants are, have are fed through foliar spray. End of the day, each sort of, each Arabic has to carry its own weight in terms of revenue, because, otherwise, there's no point in doing this if there's no revenue coming off the farm.

So we feed plants more times. Usually rule of thumb is, one plant of one Arabica, for example, needs about 250 grams of fertilizer over, over the course of a year. If you could give it in in, in smaller doses, like using a dation system is ideal, but because all the work on the farm is manual we got so many Ries, you don't, you can't have vehicles going through the or any sort of automation.

Everything has to be manually done. So normally farmers in India have two or three rounds of fertilizer based on what they're budgeting for. The year is. Instead on this block, what we've done is we've done five rounds of foliar sprays. So we broken it down because again nutrition uptake is different if it's through the leaf versus the rooting system.

This is too early. It's too early for me to tell whether it's the right way to go about it [00:20:00] or not, because we still have, there's still saplings, youngling, they're just about two years old at the moment.

And so it's too early to to tell whether this is heading in the right direction. We do not use any sort of, we decide anywhere on the farm. So it's all by hand or weed cutters. The robusta blocks, for example have covered up so that the amount of weeds underneath is limited but is still by hand now.

See now there's one thing we've been observing. Now, if you go up into the push query push per GU mountains, and these are small holders it's largely untouched. So a lot of that agriculture practices, the soil condition is what we probably would've been like a few hundred years ago.

Yeah. Now as as you, you well know Aramco or coffee in general doesn't do too well in acidic soils. You need, soils of pH of between say 5.75 to 6.5. However this entire belt the soil, we've been helping the farmers doing a soil test there as well. How the entire belt, you can see that their soil is super acidic.

[00:21:00] 4.4 on the pH on average which shows that the native soil is probably very acid acidic. . Yeah. And with the, I, we haven't done any lyming yet. However I can't remember my grandfather having limed the soil to, to bring down the acidy. So there has been a degree of terraforming here to get coffee to work here.

[00:21:18] Andrew: Yep. And just just to clarify for people pH of seven is neutral. Anything below seven is acidic coffee, like somewhat acidic soil, you're saying at about 5.5 to 6.5, I think. And then, but below, below those that, that, that range is getting quite acidic. And generally it's not considered that that coffee likes that, that level of acidity.

And so you can add lime back to the soil, which then brings the pH up to to a better range for coffee growing.

[00:21:47] Akshay: Now, you could start thinking if you could start doing this whatever the Needto species is, because a lot of these species thrive in our existing.

So what happens to the native species? And I don't know if there's, I haven't really looked into if there's been any [00:22:00] research into this, but logic sort of dictates that there is going to be a knock on effect. , right? So that sort of takes us down the other route of why we started looking at Native Indian coffees.

But that's I think further down line.

[00:22:11] Agroforestry, regenerative farming, biodiversity

[00:22:11] Andrew: Okay. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. So we'll talk about we'll talk about Native Indian coffees shortly. And I know this is, it's early days and there are many reasons to have biodiversity on a farm. And. Yeah maybe we could list off some of those benefits, but, you can reduce your input costs and and you there, yeah, so you can have less in terms of herbicides.

You, you don't need as much in the way of of fertilizers and everything else. Do you, what are the main reasons you've you've maintained this level of shade and this and this biodiversity on the farm and how is that knocking onto soil? And then what impact is that having on, coffee yields and also quality from what you can tell.

[00:22:51] Akshay: There's so many sort of interconnected issues and positives, negatives relating to the shade and the soil and what we are doing at the moment [00:23:00] now. See, We need the right bacterial fungi ratios in the soil. We need the right amount of ation in the soil, which was naturally done by earthworms.

Now with less and less composting, less and less decomposing matter, all of this is getting skewed off addition of chemicals is also negatively impacting. Start from your earthworm populations to your bacteria to fungi ratios. , my on the roots and so on have to be maintained.

Now if we go back to as natural a method of farming, this needs to go back to normal. Yeah. Now, the problem with coffee farms is that we are not we are not annually we are pera. So you can't swap around crops. So it's actually much harder. I We've got coffee plants at over 80 or 90 years old.

The, these plants have been there. The soil has been been fed the same thing that is for the coffee for the last 80 to 90 years. Imagine what's happened in the soil, where is the diversity? With annual crops, you can actually alternate crops and look at a more agroforestry based approach because, one year you could use [00:24:00] something that's nitrogen fixing the next year you do something as cash crop or per season.

We don't have that ability. So it's important that we start looking at the shade trees that actually give back and work in tandem with the coffee plants. , otherwise they're going to be reliant. I It's actually very scary because if you look at the foundation of any chemical fertilizer anywhere in the world, it's uria.

Now uria is subsidized by governments all over the world. Imagine if that subsidy is removed. think we are paying one fourth the actual price per bag of Yulia in India. Sure.

[00:24:37] Andrew: And

[00:24:38] Akshay: This is it's just scary. Cause no one would be, coffee expensive as it is. I'd say it's not expensive enough.

But imagine if all of these subsidies are removed. .

[00:24:46] Andrew: Yeah. When you say urea, that's also ammonia. Is that ammonia? That's right. Yeah.

[00:24:51] Akshay: Yeah. Sorry, chemically.

[00:24:53] Komal: And another thing I think Andrew just an example, like what he's talking about for keeping the bio diversity [00:25:00] on it's important.

We didn't speak about the fact that we have a lot of jackfruit on most of the estates in coal. Anglo will have jackfruit on their farms. And sometimes, we each plant would have about 50 to a hundred plus jackfruit, bearing, bearing jackfruit, the fruit. We don't consume it all, or we don't, use it all.

So a lot of the times, at least on our farm, we just let it fall down and go back into the soil. It's important in general to say that, whatever the nutrition is can go back into the soil and keep it in the soil as much as

[00:25:34] Akshay: possible. Yeah, it's very interesting because we've been thinking and again, there's so much more to learn for us, where this is concerned is we've got a lot of excela and liberic on the farm now.

The excela libera have very little cares taken. They still yield year on Europe. We do not fertilize them. We do not manually fertilize them. We do not spray them, but they yield. [00:26:00] So they're basically pulling the nutrition from the soil. Sure. And therefore the soil is feeding these plants year on year.

So we gonna try and we gonna have to try and recreate that as much as possible. Now I'm not saying that we have to remove our reliance on chemical fertilizers, complet. we can reduce and choosing the right sort of plants or trees to plant in between the coffee is very important.

, right? So for example, data in India, GLE City and South America, that's available here as well. We've done we've actually started experimenting with moringa. So moringa sokas, extremely nitrogen fixing. Yes. And it's also very limited in shape. So it's ideal for between robusta. It's the leaves decompose extremely quickly gives back organic matter to the soil.

We struggle to actually get to fruit, but either way it's doing its job of fixing. So even if it's not an ary crop, it's fine. It's giving back to the soil. .

[00:26:54] Komal: And even the weeds, it depends. So we did a small study in the weeds and some of the weeds are [00:27:00] nitrogen fixing.

Some of them are great in, certain different nutritions nutrients and we can actually prop, potentially propagate those. I know it's a long shot, but it is one of those things that we could start looking at once you, once we look at which weed is doing its job in terms of feeding the soil.

[00:27:17] Biodiversity and natural insecticides

[00:27:17] Akshay: And regarding the biodiversity. Another thing that we've been working on is robusta is cross pollinated, Arabica self pollinated. So we've been actually having bee boxes in robusta blocks to encourage pollination, but which means that there is a trade off, no. Insecticides. So we've gone off all chemical insecticides.

We are now experimenting using have you heard of this crop called neme? It's native again too. I think India. Parts of Africa possibly. So it's an oil made from the ne nuts that is supposed to be very good. Insecticides? Yes. We started moving to, to ne now one of the largest issues for Indian Arabica cultivation is the white stem border.

Now Wtam Bora once it infects the plant the [00:28:00] plans dead. Over a period of three years, we actually uprooted 60,000 arabica plants because of Weem border damage. Now one way to minimize the effect of weem borderers to reduce temperatures. And shade works very well. Of course it's not it reduces the impact it does not completely removed.

So there's a whole lot of things we need to do to minimize. We damage increasing shade is one of them, so that's a plus for us as well. And coming back to the temperature ID for which works for coffees we know the sweet spot for coffees is between 12 degrees at least, ERs 12 degrees to say about 25, 26 degrees is ideal.

You won't believe this, we about to us from us, we have the largest tiger Reserve in the country called Naga now then extremely dense jungle. So it's just outside. Naga is basically a very large, robust growing area, so it's devoid of any trees. Yeah. And you can and we observed this driving the car just outside the gates of the national park.

It's, it was 31 [00:29:00] degrees. As soon as you enter the national park and enter the three, three region in drops 26. Yeah. Yeah. So it's, it is phenomenal. So you can see that we can actually maintain lower temperatures if we just go back to the kind of shade coverage that these areas traditionally had.

[00:29:15] Benefits of biodiversity/non-certified organic methods on coffee quality

[00:29:15] Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. And it sounds like it's an essential essential practice given the increasing temperatures. Very interesting. And now what about in terms of and I know this is very difficult to measure and manage and it's early days, but what about in terms of uh, coffee quality?

So where you have higher biodiversity and soil, better soil health, do you get better quality coffee or is that something that you are exploring?

[00:29:37] Akshay: Andrew. Now, see, last year when we spoke about this at in Milan now we've we cup these two coffees. One traditionally grown one looking at soil health going to a more organic way, not certified organic of course, but a more organic approach to soil maintaining the soil health.

And there's not noticeable difference. It was essentially the same earlier. However, we haven't, for this to actually be [00:30:00] evidence, we can showcase. We need few more samples. We need a few more farms doing the same thing. We need a lot more people basically giving their opinions.

I think this is something we've discussed as well. We should give that a shot

[00:30:12] Komal: and a few more years of data as well, I think. Yes. Yes, this is early days. We can always, say, yes, this coffee was good and this coffee was all right. But I think if we do the same study year on year, about four to five years and see if there is a noticeable difference between the two coffees year on year, then we have some, some solid data sector to go with.

[00:30:33] Cup scores are improving

[00:30:33] Akshay: And see when we took over the family farm in 2018. Before that, it was managed quite traditionally, and now we've mo we are moving to in a soil center approach. So best cup then was an 85. The it in 87 cup locally. However, the number of variables are too many for us to actually, base it on.

But one thing is for sure we also measure something called outturns, number of kilos of fruit required for one kilo of clean [00:31:00] coffee, and then the average bele size as well. We are improving. So our outturns in 2018 was 48% of our sorry, 44% of our from the social cherry to, to clean coffee.

From naturals to, to green coffee. So 44% was a conversion rate. , we touched 51% last year. We, this year we touched 55%. So our beans are larger. Our beans are denser. Our beans are heavier. But again, the data is not enough, we can't go back in time and evaluate how ripe or how mature the coffee was when it was harvested then versus now.

So it's it's a tough one. However, all indications point to improvement.

[00:31:42] INDIAN NATIVE SPECIES[00:31:42] End episode 1

[00:31:42] Andrew: Yeah. Lots of marginal steps to make these improvements and it's way too complex a system to to say what is having the biggest impact, but you're going in the right direction, which is which is great.

. So now let's talk about the excels and libera cause that's or sorry let's start with Indian native [00:32:00] coffee species and the research you've been doing on that. Cause it, it sounds fascinating. We talked about Brother Bubba Boudan before. But you alluded to the fact that coffee has been in India for a lot longer than than his arrival.

So tell us more about, about Indian native coffee species.

[00:32:14] Akshay: It all started with us working with these small growers up in the mountains, right? And these guys are one to 10 ACRE holdings and they're super reliant on, on their land. A lot of them grow their own rice and their.

And we've and as Coleman mentioned that belt is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. And we found two or three wild species of black pepper which was just growing wild in the forest there, which, they could they could basically cultivate and we've been looking at different ways of bringing in additional revenue to these growers.

So this is where it started. So it first started with us asking them to make saplings from, for us because we've been planting a lot about it because on our farm. So I said, why don't you just get the wild saplings that birds are eaten the fruit and dropped and. and I'll plant that.

Let's see what happens then. It [00:33:00] was I want we went back and and had a look at a lot of these old British books from the 17 hundreds to see what trees were planted in our in, in our regions. And those trees of are available in the mountains. So I asked them to during monsoons you have the seeds sprouting in the jungle.

I said, I'll pay you for for these saplings additional income for them as well. And we, there's another project we started on and then that got me thinking and that not be thinking of, we, we need to start looking at most native species that work in our conditions. We need that, that require a lot less effort.

Honestly, to grow Arabica is getting harder and harder. And it shouldn't be this hard. There must be stuff that just grows here without, this much effort. So then I think it was just random. I just searched for native coffee species, India, because I remember once when I was really young my grandad said, there's been native coffee in India and, you I just thought it was this old man just saying something.

And I think that's stuck in my head. And a few species popped. Yeah. So there's coffee there's about five, six of them. I [00:34:00] can't remember all of them at the top of my head. But there's coffee Bengals in that. There's two varieties. So there's variety Bangals, there's variety Baba Bani.

There's Coffee Verana, there's coffee TRAs. There's coffee mal. There's coffee. There's coffee Jenene. So there are a few coffee species that are found here. So I said bloody, this is why is not talking about this. This is awesome. Yeah. I short of email to to Dr.

Davis asked him, because a lot of the papers regarding these PCs were published by Dr. Davis from Q Garden. Stop. Aaron,

[00:34:36] Andrew: Dr. Aaron Davis from

[00:34:38] Akshay: qar. That's right. That's right. And for a bit of help to identify these plants because I said, listen, we've got we've got access to the to the sort of untouched part of the Western gas.

Let's search for there. It should be there, some of them. Then we met with a certain individual certain scientists at, at Indian Coffee Board who were super helpful and they said, yes these species do exist, but they're not [00:35:00] commercially viable. , and they're probably caffeine free.

I said, doesn't really matter. That actually doesn't matter. If this is gonna grow.

[00:35:07] Andrew: That, that sounds fantastic.

[00:35:09] Akshay: Exactly. So Why is this a problem? met with the CEO of the coffee board and he was like, yes, this is of course if this is there, let's explore it. And then we got access to the coffee research center in Chiang Law, and we saw some of the species there.

And because my biggest issue is we can't identify these plants because nobody knows what they look like. And there's some photos online, but it's not easy. And the the locals here, when I spoke to them, they said, this wild coffee, there is wild coffee here. I said, really?

Yes, we'll show you the plants. But that didn't end up big coffee. But it's, it that's another story. It was kinda a bit of a wild goose chase. So we've gone from mountain to mountain searching for these wild coffee vals. And eventually we've ended up with some coffee.

We've got one sapling of s we've got 200 saplings of trances and we've got about 10 saplings of Iana. Now it's very [00:36:00] interesting cause tra is actually from the belt. We are in stretching from the coup parts of the western guts down to Kerala. White Tiana is from a drier region, so apparently Yana grows wild in between ul Nadu and Karika in the drier areas.

We, we are seeing our vinas struggling a bit because I think we are too wet in this region. And the Bengals is too young for me to see, but obviously there's a variety called baba bani. Probably is found on the Baba bary hills, and it's also found all the way up from Risa right into the northeast of India, ASAM and that region.

So Asam has quite a few wild varieties of coffee. The Jenkins Ka comes from again, around that lesion. The Coffee Ma Bar, I have no idea what it looks like. There's no photos on them. So after having a bit of back and forth with Dr. Davis Dr. Davis was kind to share some articles written in 1925, which implied that in the 17 [00:37:00] hundreds Bengals was cultivated quite extens.

I'm happy to send you that those articles it's very interesting. And travenconrensis was was cultivated and so was , but bang seems to have been cultivated quite extensively and replaced with Arabica at some point. Wow. Okay. At the moment now the thing is Arabics another few plants the coffee, a species that are self pollinated 44 chromosomes everything else, including what we have here, which are which are the side family are all cross pollinated.

Therefore, you need to have a separate genetic material in two different plants. At the moment our vitamins are too young. Tarsis. Fingers crossed. We've got two plants that have four fruits, which are really tiny. I think it's gonna be like a race moosa. If anyone's seen the race moosa fruits, it's, I assume it's going to be similar in size.


[00:37:50] Andrew: Okay.

[00:37:51] Akshay: And it is not enough for a cupping of course, but it's the start. And what's really fantastic is the tra corn is doing really [00:38:00] well in, in our region. And what's even better is that it's growing under shape now. Plants find it very hard, especially, coffee eventually is a fruit plant, fruiting plant.

And therefore any fruiting plant, as has better production, better cup if it's exposed to the. . And it's very hard for plants to actually grow with depleted sunlight. Now, if this if travel occurrences in our test works well under shade, which means that we could actually plant it under the coffee, right?

And we've been doing some testing on seeing how hard it is. We chopped off the heads of a few of the plants and they've come back like weeds, which is fantastic. And it's not really a weed. Cause again, it's native. Yeah. So if it becomes an ary crop, especially for the farmers up in the mountains, additional revenue and wheat control.

True. Yeah. This is the ideal situation and we need to do a lot of yeah.

[00:38:50] Komal: We are at the very starting point of this journey. So it really depends on how our research goes. And then we will look into propagating it further into the larger [00:39:00] blocks of the estate, and then go into, say, to the small growers up in the mountains saying that, Hey, this might be an option.

[00:39:07] Akshay: I guess I'm getting what Google's trying to say is that I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'm super excited.

[00:39:13] Andrew: Yeah. I wasn't gonna say it Yeah it's genuinely incredibly exciting to be able to explore native varieties and see if there's any anything that's commercially viable.

And just for pure curiosity to, to be able to couple all these different different species would be a really exciting. So looking forward to hearing your results on that.

[00:39:35] Excselsa and liberica

[00:39:35] Andrew: And and speaking of varieties and species you're also Exploring the Excela and and libera on your farm.

Can you tell us more about, about those and the research that you've done?

[00:39:45] Komal: I think the Excela and Libera started as just that these plants were there. These trees were there. And I think in 2018 when we were sitting just finished our robusta harvest, actually me looking at these [00:40:00] wonderful excel of plants and he, and then we decided, hey, we, we gotta process these

[00:40:07] Akshay: Also actually the story is a bit more fun than that

The thing is like I said, I always thought Excel library cause of best coffee on the. and then Coba started exporting the Olympics to the UK and the roaster who we were talking about, I said, you know what, this is nothing you have, no, you have doing your, we've got some really good stuff really good stuff.

And . And he's really? We want to try stuff that's different. So I said, yeah, library cars, just phenomenon. Love them. So the first day we just set out washed Excela library cars. And then he calls us and he's this is disgusting. It tastes like burn trouble, . I was like, what do you mean it taste burn rubber.

This is amazing. And then he sends us a sample and we tasted it tastes like burnt. This is disgusting, right? So then the inherent flavor notes and the inherent fruitiness had to, we had to be able to do something with it. It can't be just a write off. So that's why we sat [00:41:00] down and we said, you know what, let's.

Do something crazy. Let's do something like totally bonkers with it. And we did a what, seven ferment .

[00:41:10] Komal: It was a really extended ferment that you call nowadays a super extended ferment with and a black honey process because we couldn't potentially just get all the misage outta that coffee.

So it, it just turned out to be a black honey and and a double ferment. We fermented it and then and cherry form and then soaked it and then it, it was a whole process, which was we really didn't know what was gonna come out of it, to be very honest with you.

Yeah. And we had a

[00:41:38] Akshay: really tiny bag of it. We are very, no, we did tiny batch, but it did super well in India. It did super well in Saudi. But I think, we are so used to more extreme flavors that something this extreme. Appealed to the Indian palette and the Saudi palette. I remember so we, we gave it to I, I'm not sure.

Do you know Franco from per blenders? Yep. Fran? Yep. Yeah. So I came frog to [00:42:00] cup and he's this, what is this? This is like cowboy coffee. It taste like leather with . But that's how we started with this with this. But now it's tone down a bit and I think, I don't know what it is.

See the excela liber are much easier to process than than the robusters they take to processing much better Now our Excela Li three coffees, whatever you want to call it, are at about 0.9% caffeine. So it could be caffeine related. Also, maybe the porosity of the parchment layer and is more porous, I'm not sure, but it behaves more like an Arabica when it comes to processing.

Now, with a robusta, you can, to a whole bunch of different things, but it still tastes like popcorn. There's not much you can

[00:42:45] Komal: Sure. That's not true that, that actually, and me disagree on that one, but, all right. . Yeah.

[00:42:50] Andrew: There's a lot of people, I've I tried recently some conlon Brazilian conlon, and that was quite special.

Actually had some acidity and some fruit flavors, which was which was really interesting. But it [00:43:00] sounds like there's a lot of potential with the Excels here and the liber in terms of, Probably two things. One is, one is the processing, but also the rose profiling.

Maybe it just needs a slightly different rose profile as well as the processing and treat it approach it as a new thing. And and try something completely different as you did with with your processing. You could do the same with the roasting.


[00:43:19] Akshay: And Andrew, the thing is, since these are cross pollinated, we have a lot general diversity on our own farm. We've been comparing now the certain excela, basically native to Uganda. We've been comparing what we have on our to theirs. We've been talking to the coffee research center here as.

So there's so much drastic difference between a a few of the plants in in, in the leaf structure to the fruiting to the fruiting, to the fruit shapes. Now, one of the biggest issues we've seen with theor, IBER is the outturns. You need 10 kilos of fruit for one kilo of clean. The math behind it is very hard to get right.

But apparently the different varieties are, have different outcomes. You can go. One is to six two, one is up to one is to 12. Now, we've got[00:44:00] certain varieties on our farm that have very large disks, the top part of the flu, some that have smaller ones. So this year, what we are what we're gonna be doing is we're gonna be harvesting the different varieties separately, cutting them separately, measuring outturns separately, and and then we're gonna propagate them again because it's cross pollinated, we cannot propagate by a seeds.

It'll have to be through, through grafting and clonal propagations. So that is something we are gonna be doing this year. . And we've we've been working with our excela in the uk. We've been working with the Excela in the Netherlands, in India. And now I think al sort built a name for for herself regarding Excela.

And we are having other coffee growers coming to us, asking us for saplings. So I think, slowly we're gonna make this into a, an oxide resource income. And what's I, what's fantastic about it is you can actually plant it as a shaded tree for the Arabica Tie two shade, and you can trade pepper on it.

So it's, two separate crops.

[00:44:53] Roasting the excsela/liberica

[00:44:53] Komal: And I think Andrew, coming back to your roasting profile, right? Like you, you very rightly said that [00:45:00] all the roasters have to look at it as a completely different species, so you have to look at it in a new way. You cannot look at it as an Arabica or a robuster.

And that's something that is, I think, missing, like that piece is missing because we don't have enough excela or libera in the market. So a lot of roasters are unaware of how to go about it. , that's something that, that, we I'm not qualified enough to say anything about it, but I'm sure, you and some of the roasters that we're working with would be able to shed some light on that.

[00:45:27] Potential for Indian coffee

[00:45:27] Komal: Great. Now we've also touched a little bit on processing. What I guess I'm interested to know if we zoom out a little bit because as you were saying before, when you realized back in 20 20 12 there wasn't a lot of Indian coffee being talked about or available in the market, certainly in the uk.

And and people's view of it was that it's robust store or monso, Malibu and so on. And and that's been evolving and we've also seen a lot of focus now on, on experimental processing. And I'm also I'm interested to [00:46:00] know what what potential for processing, but then also how coffee is consumed and enjoyed in India.

And then also where you think that the market is heading in, in, in the regions that you're selling your coffee and maybe further beyond for Indian coffee.

[00:46:15] Processing

[00:46:15] Komal: Yeah. So coming to your first question, I think that what in terms of processing . The idea for South India Coffee Co is really to make processes which are simple either for the small growers or even for the large growers, they have to be scalable.

Yes, we can have certain experimental lots and they may or may not work, but it is really important, the relationship, the roaster and potentially, the grower has to have that kind of say, I'm going to try an experimental process, but suddenly it doesn't work. And, it has to be a it's a relationship, right?

So we have to work together with it. What happens if I'm a small grower? That process has not worked and what happens to that coffee then? So my focus, and I think Akshay as well, we both are focusing on [00:47:00] processes that are trying to elevate the bean quality or the bean that is the intrinsic value of the Bean

that is a flavor that should come out in the coffee. So it can be as simple processes as just, a great natural, which is what we started with when we did a, the small experimental lot back in 2018, and which is what, people are now talking about as a, we're basically known for a good natural.

So that is my idea of propagating simple processes, whether they are maybe like a nice honey sun coffee just a simple great wash coffee or in natural with the larger pro larger producers, I think we are at liberty at of doing certain experiments where we can tell them that, Hey, can you try this out?

Or can you try that out? And that kind of that's important as well. .

[00:47:48] Akshay: We've had a bit of a journey with our processing as well. Now one of my biggest issues is is the real understanding on what's actually going on the processing front now since essentially the flavors all coming from [00:48:00] chemicals, right?

Whether it's acids, Esthers, and so on. So if we could actually con control which Esthers form which asset is formed up to what degree it makes things very simple. We could have our coffee tastes like Panama Geisha if you wanted to, if we could bring it down to that level. So over the last few years we've tried everything from some, we, sorry, we haven't gone to the carbonic ation route because of equipment costs, but we've done an anaerobics, and all of that, and eventually we've, this year we've gone back to basics.

And a lot of the growers, we've asked 'em to go back to basics. What's very interesting is traditionally the way coffee was processed naturally for what the growers call whole crop cherry. So whole crop cherry, when you pick, for the pu and not strip pick, because in India, mostly when you end up picking nationals, it's you strip the whole thing and it's all commodity market.

And the way the Indian sort of market has traditionally been structured is that growers do not sell green coffee. They sell either cherry or parchment. . Now and generally for parchment, [00:49:00] you pick half red cherries and above. And for cherry for, yeah, for wash to a parchment, you pick half red and above.

And for cherries, you pick you to pick the whole lot. Now the concept of whole crop cherry was a bit lost because there was no financial gain. because the cup had very little to do with it. It all had to do with the outturns of going from cherry to clean or parchment to clean. Okay. So when we started off, we've done the whole anaerobic and whatnot, and I think our coffees got steadily worse in my opinion.

Other people may not agree, but at least I thought it was going. And so we went back to basics this year. So traditionally what you do for whole crop cherry is you drive for a few days then you heap it, right? So essentially what's happening is you're having a mixed when you heap it and cover it with a toplin, you end up having a degree of anaerobic and aerobic fermentation happening for that one day.

And then you dry it. Okay. And that was what we did the first year, and that year was our best year in my opinion.

[00:49:56] Komal: This year we've gotten close .

[00:49:57] Akshay: So this year we've gone back to basics, but we've tried to make the [00:50:00] heaping controlled right. Because the heaping is where the most uncontrolled part of the fermentation.

So we've tried to make the heaping controlled and it's working really well. So we've gone away from all the sort of ana yes, to an extent this is anaerobic, but we don't really talk about the anaerobic nature. But the entire processing is going down that route up until I can actually re, re reproduce, recreate the right Esthers that I.

Chemically in the bean, we are going to stick to, I think a more traditional approach, which has actually lended to a better cup. And even with the mountains. Last year, I think when we, so we processed the coffees that we work with the small growers. So this year we've gone back to basics for the, a arabicas to try and focus on what the bean has rather than, we overprocess the coffees and hide the actual characteristics of the bean when they've got, there are thousand, 400,500 meters.

[00:50:56] Brix

[00:50:56] Akshay: The bean itself should speaks for itself. Yeah. I think one [00:51:00] of the hardest parts, which we still haven't, got Right. Is the harvesting aspect. , with our own farm, of course we only harvest red. Although sometimes, you question why, because a full red can have 16 bricks.

A full red can have 22 bricks. Sure. Either way, the 16 bricks is gonna mess up your fermentation. You're gonna get a dirty cup or you're gonna get an uneven cup because you've, you're fermenting for the 22 bricks, but the 16 bricks messes it all

[00:51:25] Andrew: up. Yeah. And bricks is a measure of sugar. So you're talking about d different levels of ripeness or sugar content.

And so that affects fermentation. .

[00:51:32] Akshay: Yeah. And the thing is, it's not even ripeness. You could visually you think is fully ripe. You could have something that's actually half ripe, half red, and the bricks is high. So it depends on the plant. It depends on how the varietal depends on how the soil is on that plant.

There's so many different factors. It's just really hard. And the reason why we rely on the bricks is you're not really getting sweetness from the bricks. Your seed cannot absorb those sugars. Yeah. What the seed is absorbing are, the [00:52:00] Esther particles, the acid particles.

That's what it's absorbing. . Your, what we want the bricks is for an even fermentation and it's super important in a natural because your seed is only exposed to the sugar around it with, without honey, for example. It's an average of the entire day picking. Okay. Yep.

And you can also manipulate it I mean if you have the budget, you can also add flu fructose to the solution to, increase your sugar content. Yeah. But with the natural let's say I've picked full red and I've ended up having 16 bricks, but I've said, okay, you know what, we are gonna do a 36 ament because at the end of the 36 Rs, majority of a 20 or of an 18 or 20 bricks has basical.

Fermented to the extent I wanted to ferment. What happens to the 14, 16 bricks, which is also picked and it's red, it's already, it's passed home fermentation is gone into the acid region. And so when you cup it when we give you the salmon cup and that one seed comes in there, in that one cup, yeah.

You're going to get enough note. Yes. Which is why the nationals are hard. That is why the, this whole processing aspect and sometimes [00:53:00] especially for the small growers a hands off approach is probably best. We focus on the bean we focused on, the actual grower behind it.

I know it's diverted away from your processing bit, but this is an approach we're taking for this year with our with our commodity with our community laws. Yeah. So what works for the group?

[00:53:17] Andrew: Sure. Yeah. I think. A few things there. It's fascinating.

One, one is, There's this sort of mythology around consistency in coffee. And it's an agricultural product and it shouldn't, we shouldn't try and make everything consistent and taste the same all the time. Cause that's, it's what a commodity is when we're talking about specialty coffee.

But the other thing is that what you call the simple processes, I think you were describing as, or more traditional processes actually, you've got a very distinctive. Process that works for you in your region. And and rather than being traditional or boring or normal, you just need to rename it , in the same way, carbonic macerations a nice name and anaerobic and so on.

If you talk to some people that are processing, then [00:54:00] a lot of fermentation is actually anaerobic. But your process sounds like you're heap treating your naturals, which sounds amazing. , maybe just describe it as a heap treated natural .

[00:54:08] Komal: And I think another bit what you're seeing Andrew as well In terms of the processes, if we can just, these are the main processes that are followed for years.

But if you just tweak certain things like just the picking or the way it is, raked or heaped or where it is, when it comes to the drying yard what kind of water is used. So very simple things like that.

[00:54:28] Akshay: Make fires, yard .

[00:54:30] Komal: Yeah. Certain things like that. , you just have to have simple things going right for you and you can actually improve your cup.

You don't have to have, your massive carbonic maceration tanks or of course those are fantastic to have if you have the budget. But when you're talking about small growers, you're talking about large scale processing. Then, oh, and small growers and large scale processing. Then these are certain things that can be followed and you can just improve your cup year on, year by one or, even 0.5.

[00:54:59] Akshay: [00:55:00] But see there are certain coffees like for example, excels that require processing because they do have certain off notes that can be either masked with the processing or reduced to the processing. . Yes. So I mean it, I guess it depends on, on, on case by case. One beautiful thing about processing is, see we are considered sort mid to low altitude, I guess for, because eight 50 to a thousand.

However, with the, at least a streamlining our processing, we are able hold our own with the coffee is from, thousand 500.

[00:55:29] Farm and profit

[00:55:29] Andrew: Yeah. That which is really opportunity with processing and. And it's something with the variability of the climate as something that, that I think you need to be able to explore.

But equally your the work you're doing with South India Coffee Company and working with small holders and trying to find profitability for them as well as for your own business is is really impressive. I was in Guatemala and I was on a a farm as a project from Anna Cafe, which is the National Coffee Association of Guatemala.

Traditionally the focus in Guatemala has been on yield, right? Do whatever you can to produce more and more coffee. Whereas now their [00:56:00] focus is on profitability.

And so they're saying if you have one hectare. And and you can forecast what your production's gonna be from that one hectare. Then, you shouldn't be spending all your money on the labor that you have to invest in managing the shade or managing the ground cover, or your input costs like fertilizers or pesticides if you use them, you need to say this is what I'm gonna yield.

This is the probable price I'm gonna get for this coffee, and therefore I'm gonna have this revenue and therefore my input costs have to be less than this. And that's sounds like a fairly simplistic way to think about a business, but actually that's all the business It's making sure that your revenue is greater than your expenses. And it sounds like the approach you're talking about here is very much in line with that. Use, methods that will yield the best quality that don't. Cost the world to make them happen.

[00:56:49] Akshay: And You can do one step further as well, right? So for example, we have this one arabica plant that has survived borer attacks that loses all its leaves every year [00:57:00] to leave rust. You end up every year we think it's dead. It is been around 40 plus years. Every year we've got, yeah, that's gone and suddenly burst life in the

And the crop is even year on year. Even crop. So we need to propagate plants like these, right? So if so, then you end up having a constant yield, which can be forecasted. And like you said, the Indian industry is very similar, always focused on, on yield. But dependability I think is more important.

And again I completely agree with profit, which is what I was actually talking to a few growers about. Even if our native Indian species end up, giving one kilo of coffee, right? But then one kilo of coffee can be sold at a price that's not comparable to one kilo of Arabic. You have to think in, in different terms, low, lower yield, higher cup, higher sales breaks.


[00:57:52] Future plans

[00:57:52] Andrew: Yep. Absolutely. Yeah. Which I think based on our conversation, big dreams, [00:58:00] lots of irons in the fire is the English expression goes. So you're really thinking about a lot. Ways to make coffee farming profitable and to really explore the potential for coffee in your region.

Where do you wanna be in 10 years time? What do you think is what's the dream for South India Coffee company or coffee in India for yourself?

[00:58:19] Komal: I, coffee in India and is and the consumption in general in India is growing massively. Specialty coffee is growing, it's booming.

So I think just overall Indian coffee is going to be an exciting journey in India itself. For us, I think we're looking at a lot of different, things, native species, the biodiversity, soil health, excela the future of Excela. I think that's what's very exciting for us.

And for the company itself, I think we wanna put Indian coffee in all different parts of the world. So we started with uk. We're in five different countries now and we'd like to be [00:59:00] we'd like to just showcase Indian coffee as much as possible. And I would definitely want to go into a coffee shop or any other part of the world and say, Hey, we know about Indian coffee.

That is the goal, I

[00:59:09] Andrew: think.

Yeah. Yeah. Sounds sounds great. I've, yeah, I've tried sounds, sounds challenging, I think. Yeah. Sounds challenging. Yeah. But you gotta dream big . As long as she gives me

[00:59:21] Akshay: the budget to work on my crazy projects, I'm happy.

[00:59:23] Andrew: Komal controls the budget. Okay. That's good to know. . . Wonderful. Thanks so much for your time, really. Have enjoyed hearing your story and looking forward to trying some of your coffees and and some working with you, some projects for on the coffee knowledge hub. People should hopefully have enjoyed this conversation and should follow you on your Instagram and follow your activities across whichever platforms you're on.

[00:59:47] Komal: Thank you, Andrew. Thanks. Thanks, Andrew. Thank you for having us. Thank you for doing this.

[00:59:52] Andrew: Absolute pleasure.

Find out more aboutSouth India Coffee Coandnative Indian coffee species

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