May 24, 2021
Popular for its coffee, pepper and cardamom estates, Chikmagalur can be a dreamy escape with enough to do. Here’s what I recommend:
Home-stay: The Sattva Nature Retreat owned by Ganga Prabhakar and her family is a quaint little guesthouse in the valley. One of the oldest families in the region, their estate was one of the first to be passed on from the British Raj. Ganga who is a third wave roaster and co-founder of Coffee Mechanics with her husband Pawan, is a gracious host and has ample of knowledge about coffee (obv.), local and seasonal produce and the local food. A walk through the estate with her father Mr Prabhakar and their nature-specialist Saru who climbs trees like a champion are an absolute delight.
Local food: Ganga’s mother Kavitha cooks up exceptional Malenadu Gowda cuisine. We were intrigued by the Shavige (string hoppers), Benne Kaddbu (steamed butter dough balls), Kai Kaddbu (coconut and rice balls), Kesina Gantu (colocassia leaves rolled, knotted and cooked with Athuli which is a reduction made from Hullikai, a citrus fruit parallel to Panapuli, the key ingredient in the Coorgy Pandi curry). Make sure to request for the Malenadu chicken curry, chicken pepper fry and carrot kheer with caramelised cashews. The plethora of produce that grows at this home stay can make it self sufficient. Avocado, Jackfruit, Guava, Bird’s Eye Chilli, Lychee, Elephant Ear Figs can be plucked straight from the trees. Make sure to have breakfast in the garden.
Cooking Demo: Kavitha was kind / patient enough to set up a make shift kitchen in the garden to teach us how to make Hulsin Kay Palya (a dry raw jackfruit dish cooked with whole garlic and coconut), and Benne Kaddbu (steamed buttery rice balls that look like miniature idlis). Vasanti who has been with the family for eons, patiently smiles and teaches us how to roll Colacasia leaves for Kesina Gantu.
Walk around the coffee estate: Other than Arabica and Robusta plantations, the estates grow silver oaks in abundance to balance the biodiversity of the area. Coffee is a delicate plant and requires shade, fertile soil and plenty of water. Jackfruit, Pepper vines, Wild Figs, Indian Gooseberry, Bird's Eye Chilli, Turmeric, Ginger, All-year-Mangoes and Citrons grow wildly to maintain the fertility of the plantation. Make sure to carry a basket to pluck some produce for your kitchen. We walked through two of Ganga’s family estates of which one has a man made lake and feeding the fish can be therapeutic.
Sendy: A Kannadiga equivalent to Toddy or Urak, tapped from the local palm trees is Sendy. This sweet, coconut water-like ferment sent us into a tizzy. An excellent drink to start your day (Ahem!) and to end your day with. As it naturally ferments through the day, it looses it sweetness and grows potent.
Coffee: This is a no brainer. We indulged in Coffee Mechanics’ drip to-go dark roast 100% Arabica thanks to Ganga and a classic homemade filter coffee thanks to our gracious host, Kavitha.
Trip to Chikmagalur town: The town is basically two streets. IG road and MG road and is lined with Iyengar bakeries. The OG Iyengar bakery is located on MG road (near Corporation Bank) established in 1929. Take back the salty biscuits (a version of Bombay’s nan Khatai and Hyderabad’s Osmania biscuits), Cashew macaroons (more like meringues) and the legendary Egg Puff (flaky puff pastry filled with boiled egg in a ginger garlic masala). Swing by Panduranga to pick up their classic 80% coffee + 20% chicory filter coffee blend. Cane products are big. Baskets and lamps make cute gifts.
Stargazing: This may either not appeal to the hipster in you or it may make you drop your knickers. The sky is so lit with stars that you feel that the sky doesn't exist. Beware! It’s hypnotising. I use Star Tracker Lite to indulge with the galaxy, its many stars, moons and constellations. I can’t even imagine how lit the hills would look on a full moon night. Clubbed with an open-air BBQ, it's the perfect way to end your trip.
Sattva Nature Retreat: email@example.com / Whatsapp: +919481583028 / Call: +917338225928
Chikmagalur, known officially as Chikkamagaluru, is a city and the headquarters of Chikmagalur district in the Indian state of Karnataka. Located on the foothills of the Mullayanagiri peak of the Western Ghats, the city attracts tourists from around the state for its pleasant and favourable hill station climate, tropical rainforest and coffee estates.