Ratnagiri coffee farm, also known as Pearl Mountain Estate, is the first estate we started to work with when Neeraj while trying to learn about specialty coffee made his trip to Chikmaglur in December 2014, before starting our first Café and Roasting set up in Sept 2015. Ever since Ratnagiri has been constantly a part of Curious Life and it keeps getting better with every harvest.
Mr. Patre K Shivappaiya, grandfather of Ashok, planted this farm in the beginning of 20th century. It’s a wonderful tale how that gentleman used to travel on bullock cart through rainforest on eastern slopes of Mulyangiri range. Mighty Mulyangiri is the highest peak in Karnataka and on the western slopes of same range as Ratnagiri is Baba Budangiri Hill, where legendary Baba Budan planted first coffee plants in India. Back in 1920’s, these areas were sparsely populated and ghats were swarming with wild life including tigers cobras and elephants; one can really wonder how Mr. Shivappaiya, with limited resources brought this farm up.
Today his legacy is well looked after by his grandson Mr. Ashok Patre and Ratnagiri is among the best coffee farms in India producing some of the finest coffees. Like some other coffee farms in Western Ghats, Ratnagiri is certainly blessed with altitude, terroir and micro climate best suited for fine Arabica coffee and with two fresh water streams running through the plantation, you always have best water source for cultivation and processing but what distinguishes Ratnagiri from others is the love and passion of people who work there.Mr. Ashok and his wife Divya are not some ‘estate owners’ but farmers who care for every plant and every person in this farm. While we mostly join them during harvest, immense hard work and meticulous planning goes on through out the year. Ashok is a progressive farmer who indulges in modern and sustainable farm practices and he travels a lot to learn from other farmers across the world, this is the reason that coffee from Ratnagiri tastes better with every harvest. 2018-19 harvest was the first time when we noticed significant improvement and we could get some outstanding micro-lots from them. This year we could find similar results for majority of the coffee including washed, naturals and honeys.
So what they do differently?

AGRICULTURE PRACTISES

It begins with the soil, where this naturally nutrient rich red soil is constantly analysed and enriched to maintain correct pH and nutrient balance. Plants are looked after throughout the year and that involves regular pruning, stomping, cross plantation, removal of weeds and disease prevention. Mr Ashok has been able to almost double the yield in last few years and there has been a quantum jump in the cup profile.

HARVESTING AND SORTING

Traditional practice of ‘mostly ripe’ is not acceptable here. Over last two years, teams have been trained to pick only fully ripe cherries and these are double sorted thereafter before weighing and moving these to the processing unit. It is ensured that minimum Brix reading is of 20 for it to be accepted as part of specialty processing, everything else goes to commodity market, even these rejects are better than most farms following traditional practise of ‘mostly ripe’. Workers are paid double the regular rate to do this meticulous work.

PROCESSING

Ratnagiri has invested in new ECOpulper that is 65% more efficient in terms of water consumption as it recycles the water during depulping. Low density coffee beans are removed as floats and other irregularities are also removed at every stage. This is followed by controlled fermentation in steel anaerobic tanks where we at times can go for as long as 36-60 hours of fermentation for our experimental lots.

DRYING, CURING & PACKAGING

All coffees are dried on raised beds under shade and now Ratnagiri has an in-house facility for curing where coffee is hulled, graded and defects are removed using gravity separators followed by meticulous hand garbling. To reserve the goodness locked in coffee beans following this hard work, green coffee is vacuum sealed in 15 kg batches and we roasters have a coffee that tastes great throughout the season.

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