Madhu Agro Plantation
This charming coffee plantation is set high in the Eastern Ghats in the Koraput region of Odisha, and is run by mother-daughter duo Nirmala and Rajeshwari Reddy. Nirmala has been actively nurturing the 45 acres plantation since it was first established in 1996 by her husband.
Starting out as a post-retirement nature retreat, the plantation has been transformed into a lush green coffee farm intercropped with a variety of spices (cinnamon, bay leaf, ginger and pepper), plants (lemon, tamarind) and over 20 varieties of fruits (jamun, jackfruit, bananas, orange, rose apple, passion fruit, custard apple, rose apple, chikoo and guava). The plantation was, however, severely destroyed in 2014 by the untimely demise of her husband followed by the devastating effect of Cyclone Hudhud, which uprooted a large number of shade trees and caused extensive damage to the coffee plants.
Madhu Agro Plantation is the only women-run coffee farm in the region with a workforce comprising majorly of women! While the plantation continues to face challenges (environmental damage and labour shortage caused by nearby quarrying activities and the occasional monkey menace), the enthusiasm of the mother-daughter duo has seen them gradually adopt practices such as varietal segregation and dry fermentation in a bid to produce some of the best coffees coming out this region.
Maa Mangala Plantation
Located on the foothills of the Deomali range in Koraput, the plantation is part of the first wave of estate-based coffee farming that started in Koraput in the 90s. A civil contractor by trade, Saroj Swain is a first-generation coffee grower who initially took up coffee farming as a hobby to pursue his love for nature. With no background in coffee or agriculture, he learned coffee farming from scratch and carefully nurture this beautiful 70 acres plantation on the foothills of Deomali, the highest peak of the Eastern Ghats in Odisha.
While the first harvest of coffee coincided with the coffee price crisis of early 2000s and led to abandonment of coffee farming in Koraput by many of his contemporaries, his grit and passion for coffee ensured that the plantation survived. Due to this dedication, the farm has thrived by producing great quality coffee – earning recognition by the Coffee Board of India as ‘Producer of best Arabica coffee from Araku Valley region’ in 2004 (Flavours of India – The Fine Cup Award). The coffee from this farm was also adjudged the 2nd Prize Winner for ‘Best Arabica from Non Traditional Area’ for the year 2008 (Flavours of India – The Fine Cup Award). Saroj has since turned his hobby into a full time vocation.
Bordering a vast swathe of forest land, the plantation is home to various indigenous species of birds and frequented by animals like bears, porcupine and barking deers. The plantation follows semi-organic practices relying primarily on farm-produced compost as well as locally sourced cow dung and neem cakes, while making limited use of chemical fertilizers. Due to its comparatively higher elevation amongst the coffee farms of Koraput, Maa Mangala Plantation is able to produce an award winning coffee that stands out as one of the best coffee produced in the region.