Where does your coffee come from?
As you sip on your refreshing cup of coffee, have you ever thought about where it comes from? When you think about coffee farms or estates, you usually picture huge plantations spread across dense forests.
When it comes to 7000 Steps Coffee, sourcing the best #northeastcoffee involves traveling through treacherous terrains.
But why go to such lengths just for coffee?
With 7000 Steps Coffee, Zizira’s mission is to release the potential of our fellow farmers from different coffee-growing villages, while at the same time providing some of the best Coffee that Northeast India has to offer.
This blogpost talks about one of the stories from our 1st ever visit to N.Leikul, a small village in Assam where coffee is grown.
History: How Coffee Came to Assam's Villages
When you hear ‘coffee from India’, the first thing that usually comes to your mind is South Indian coffee which is grown in the hills of Karnataka (Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru, and Hassan), Kerala (Malabar region), and Tamil Nadu (Nilgiris District, Yercaud and Kodaikanal).
However, far off east, more specifically the Northeastern part of India, a different type of coffee is slowly brewing to rattle the taste buds of mainland India. We're talking about ''Coffee from the Northeast''.
Around the '90s, the Soil Conservation Department introduced coffee to the Northeast through states like Meghalaya, Mizoram, and a few other neighbouring states.
Assam was one of these states. Ever since this introduction, farmers have been growing coffee in these small villages in and around Dima Hasao District of Assam.
How did Zizira find coffee in Haflong?
When we first decided to source coffee for 7000 Steps Coffee, we looked all over Meghalaya. But we knew that even if we scoured the whole of Meghalaya, the requirement wasn’t going to be enough. So we started venturing out into other Northeastern states who might be able to provide us with coffee.
This search led us to Haflong, Assam.
With the help of the Coffee Board of India, we were able to get a hold of some coffee growers’ contacts from Haflong. However, owing to lack of a proper market, we came to know that these coffee growers were moving away from growing coffee and started cultivating some other crops instead to sustain themselves.
It was then that we decided to help these farmers overcome these problems. So, we went there to seek opportunities and find out how we could work with these coffee farmers.
First visit to N. Leikul
We started from our processing unit in Saphai at 4 pm. The rain had just stopped, and the road condition was terrible and muddy. However, we had made up our mind on making the journey so we went ahead.
It took no less than 30 minutes and we had already our first encounter with the muddy road. We ended up getting stuck for about 20 minutes or so.
Just to make matters worse, when we reached Umrangso, we discovered that out we were driving with an almost flat tire .
This unfortunate incident took another 30 minutes to fix. We were able to repair though and moved forward on our journey.
Around 8:30 PM, we reached Gunjung, a small village in Dima Hasao district. Bibojeet, our farmer, was there to welcome us.
Fortunately for us, we arrived just in time to witness the festivities of a local festival that was held on that very day. It was like we were greeted and welcomed with local dances and music. How fascinating, isn’t it?
We spent the night at our farmer friend Bibojeet’s house as we had to take off to another village the next day.
The next day, we left with our farmer friend at around 7:30 AM in the morning and reached N. Leikul village at 9 AM.
By the time we got there all the farmers were already eagerly waiting for us as they were informed of our arrival beforehand.
We went to the headman's house and we talked about why we chose to come here, and how we could help release the potential of the coffee from this village. We showed them our processing unit, spoke about building a relationship with the farmers and by the end of our conversation, the headman and farmers expressed their gratitude towards us for taking this initiative forward.
We collected coffee from the farmers and managed to get around ten bags which was roughly about 300kgs.
The next day, we made our way back home and returned to our processing unit.
This trip made us realize how difficult it is for the farmers to transport their produce from one place to another. Especially if the road conditions are beyond deplorable.
And even if they could manage to get that far, they tend to lose control over the price owing to pressure from buyers. This sad predicament is exactly the reason why farmers want to move away from coffee and grow something that they can sell locally.
It’s all about the impact!
The biggest turn of events that transpired immediately after our visit was the introduction of other buyers. Since our visit, the coffee farmers were getting a fair price for their coffee and since the other buyers could not settle on their respective price, they had to pay the farmers a fair price for the coffee.
With these developments in place, the farmers are feeling a bit more optimistic of their coffee. They even promised us that if this continues, they would continue growing coffee.
This made us happy as this is exactly what we set out to do. To empower farmers and provide the world with coffee from #NortheastIndia.
What's in it for Zizira?
For Zizira, we see a bright future with coffee from Northeast. We will keep working on it and put the Northeast on the coffee map by undertaking these small initiatives.
We’ve already come up with the next actions steps after sourcing the coffee from these villages.
The next step is to work on increasing the coffee production in Northeast India.
How do we do that exactly?
By reaching out to more small farmers from different states, and working together to source the best coffee from the Northeast.
Stay tuned for more updates on our sourcing adventures!