The air gets thinner and the rich aroma of coffee mixed with chicory caresses my senses as I wait at the dusty little bus stop. A crowd of men patiently wait the next bus to take them into the neighbouring towns, the traffic is composed of jeeps which ferry to and fro from the mountains blanketed with coffee plantations.
The faint sun glints off the stainless steel utensils hung in the bazaar while a sweeper quietly sweeps the road adding to the dust circling around the road. Sounds of hymns and prayers arise from the temple nearby, a woman in a red saree hunches over making a ritualistic design with rice powder welcoming prosperity into her home.
The coffee grinder goes full throtle grinding up coffee beans and chicory into the perfect elixir of the south indian morning. The ground beans make it to the coffee filter a must for every home in the region, the bigger the filter the bigger the family. The coffee powder thus concocted is pressed, squeezed and mixed with milk and sugar only to be built into a froth with a practised art passed down through centuries. It is then pored into multiple steel pint glasses set inside tumblers, so that you can practice the frothing whooshing action that you witnessed for yourself before sipping the filter coffee which is a foriegn pleasure. The legend that any tour guide in the sleepy town of Chikmanglur will endorse tells a story of Baba Budan who smuggled the first beans of coffee from Arab merchants and planted it amongst the tall teak trees laced with pepper vines.
Since then the coffee was embraced as an integral part in the land of chai drinkers. The mountains which nurse the coffee beans have etheral feeling to it much like the heady sweet coffee. The tall trees punctuated with coffee plants where an occasional peacock flits through transports me to a prehistoric time which I have just dreamed about. The ride up to the coffee plantation in the back of an old jeep acted as the perfect time machine.
The plantation with the quaint guest house reeked of coffee as it got roasted and dried and packed. A gurgling stream which cut through the plantation imparted its earthy taste to the coffee beans and they swayed and danced among the leaves. All I could hear was the monkeys chattering in the trees, the brook babbling and the birds chirping. As I sat sipping my aromatic chicory coffee, they told me the story of coffee.