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Published: December 11th 2007
Just before signing out, I promised a glance back at some of the earlier days of the holiday. 6 of us had signed up to Simon Hamilton's Organic Adventure, travelling round parts of Karnataka and Kerala to look at some local programmes concerned with organic and sustainable agriculture. Not one of us was an expert, and nor are we now, but these entries might give a flavour of what we did, and what fun we had.
Walking through the forests of the Western Ghats to get to the Golden Mist Plantation, run by a German called Ludwig, gave the opportunity for spotting all sorts..... vine snakes, egrets, parakeets, hornbills...and lots else we couldn't identify.
Once arrived, it was coffee, not tea we had the chance to look at first: how the collected beans are dried, and the 'cherry' rubbed away to reveal the bean beneath. Winnowing is followed by riddling to grade the sizes, and the beans are stored till it's time to roast them. I was thrilled to realise that a cottage-industry roasting machine is just like those you still see from time to time in old fashioned coffee shops.
Then off to see tea picking. Production
is not well -established here, and the pickers don't have the experience of those in other areas. When we saw them at work, we were surprised to see them take more than the first couple of leaves from the plants, and it proved we were right - this particular batch will only be used for lower grade tea.
Off again, to explore a long-neglected temple in its Sacred Grove. For me, pretty much my first Hindu Temple, and so its bright colours came as a surprise to me. Neglected it might be, but it's still a sacred site, so shoelessness was in order, and the long green passageway to the temple itself was the established home of a crew of leeches.
Later, Mark, Christine and I returned to Golden Mist to watch tea being processed. Everyone was working first of all with green tea. The leaves have to be steamed briefly to arrest the fermentation process. After that they were pounded with a man sized pestle until they're reduced to shreds. The women crouching beneath constantly moved the mixure from the edges to the middle until the shreds were uniformly small and could finish drying. The same happens
Just like the ones you still see in older coffee shops
to ordinary tea leaves, but they are first dried for an hour or two before pounding.
There's enough of a local market for Ludwig to employ 10 people year round. They work not only with his tea and coffee, but in his paddy fields, and care for his cattle too. A very different set-up from the big mono-cultures of the lage tea and cofee plantations in the area. The staff group, though small, seemed happy and committed to the Plantation, and staff seemed happy to stay.
It was here that the cicadas put on their brief crescendo-concert which so astonished us
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