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.
So what they do differently?
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.
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.