High quality specialty coffee grows in Meghalaya! Surprised? And yes, the coffee from the high altitudes of Meghalaya has the calibre to match the best coffees of the world. Growing at an average altitude of around 4,000 ft. now with proper harvesting and post-harvest processing knowledge, the coffee from Meghalaya could soon become the coffee connoisseur's preferred brew. Then why don’t all the farmers grow coffee?
Isolation from markets and lack of coffee growing awareness has locked up the potential of this cash crop resulting in just a handful of coffee farmers. Now every morning or at your workplace, when you sip on your cup of coffee, have you ever wondered where it comes from?
While Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu continue to dominate coffee production in India at a combined output of 229,000 MT, Northeast India produced 220 MT of coffee during the 2014-2015 cycle.
Exploring Specialty Coffee of the State
Zizira aims to open the gates for the farmers of the region so that they may find a market for their produce and not be subject to abuse by middle men or vulnerable to the markets.
In a recent interview with the Coffee Board of India, Zizira learned that Meghalaya too is growing specialty coffee. With this in mind, Zizira’s explorers set out to discover these high quality coffee growing farmers. So we drove from Shillong for about 1 ½ hours till we reached a place in Ri-bhoi district which we’ve never known to grow coffee!
On enquiring, we were directed to a divergent road which after 10 minutes, landed us in a village with greenery all around. We were greeted by the sight of coffee being dried in the lawn in front of a house! We were then welcomed by Mr. Teibor Mynsong, the owner of the house and the coffee berries of course!
The Unsung Coffee Hero
Mr. Teibor Mynsong is among the few coffee farmers of the region who grow coffee for their livelihood but were never spoken of. And it wasn’t until our recent discovery, that we even knew Meghalaya was also growing high quality coffee. So what went wrong?
To begin with, coffee farmers are very few in the state and moreover, they do not sell their produce locally. In fact, all of their produce is sent to the nearest processing center in Guwahati and then transported to Bangalore’s auction houses.
A Tour of the Coffee Plantation
Mr. Mynsong was very eager and willing to show us around his coffee plantation. A little steep so we had to walk carefully down the slope towards the plantation. Here is what Mr. Mynsong shared with us.
I started growing coffee in 2012 and now I have 1,200 plants producing 2 kg of coffee berries per plant every year. Two of my neighbors are also growing coffee and their plantations have more plants than mine does.
Growing coffee requires lesser labor and care as compared to pineapple. I don’t have to water or use any fertilizer or pesticide. The leaves fall off the plants and replenish the soil, added Mr.Mynsong.
Post Harvest Coffee Processing
Once the berries in his plantation are ripe, Mr. Mynsong then plucks them and lays them out in the sun to dry. However, he does not separate the fruit from the seed and lays them out to dry right as is.
Two weeks later, he stores the now dried coffee berries in gunny bags. Before bringing it up for sale he puts it in the sun for 2 more days to take care of any moisture that may have occurred in storage.
All through the conversation, Mr. Mynsong came across as humble and answered all of our questions patiently. He was happy to see someone noticing his hard work over the years and enquiring about his coffee. We bought some of his freshly plucked coffee berries and promised that we would be back for more.
Zizira will now dry and roast Mr. Mynsong’s coffee and see if we have our coffee stands up to the scrutiny of coffee lovers. Our explorers theme has taken us on yet another exciting discovery!
Who could have known that high quality coffee has been growing in the pristine hills of Meghalaya all these years! We hope to be able to put Mr. Mynsong’s high quality coffee on Zizira’s store shelves soon and can’t wait to hear what you think of it!