Welcome to the Kambihalli Estate, nestled in the Bababudangiri mountains of South India - the place where India’s coffee story began. The estate gets its name from the surrounding Kambihalli village. ‘Kambi’ means iron and ‘Halli’ means village, in the local language, Kannada, and is named so because the soil around this area is rich in iron.
Kambihalli estate has been run by the same family for 4 generations. Mr. Muthana purchased a small piece of land in 1948, prepared it for agriculture and over time grew the estate to a thriving coffee and pepper plantation. It is currently with his grandson, the late Mr. C P Kariappa’s family - run by Kariappa's wife, Nalima, and their three daughters making them India's first all women led artisanal coffee farm. Their focus is on producing single origin, shade grown, biodiverse coffee. This coffee is marketed as Halli Berri (Village Bean) coffee. Like most of the coffee that is grown in this region, the flavor of Halli Berri is also enhanced by its surroundings. Its unique taste is attributed to the iron rich soil, the biodiversity, as well as the other crops that are interspersed on the estate, namely areca, pepper, chikoo, mango, avocado and lychee. Jackfruit is also grown here, and is native to the region.
The specialty coffee revolution had a big impact on the way Kambihalli estate produced their coffee. Over the years they have grown from selling their coffee primarily to wholesalers, to having a relationship with, and direct access to, small roasters and coffee shops in India and abroad who understand and value the unique taste that Halli Berri coffee has to offer. With new and improved post harvest processing methods being integrated into the farm as and when needed, the quality of their coffee continues to improve. There is also a lot more focus on micro-lots and the separating of coffee into varietal and fermenting.
For Nalima Kariappa and her daughters, progress and conservation go hand in hand. While their focus is on exceptional quality coffee, they also have a deep commitment to the land. Coffee berries are now processed with an ECO pulper - a machine that delivers great results with the minimal usage of water. Green houses and raised dry beds have also been installed to help dry the coffee safely because the rains can be unpredictable. The farm also restricts its use of non-organic fertilizers and pesticides. They produce their own organic fertilizers and compost, and this is added to the soil as needed.
Being a part of the rainforest region in India, the estate is rich with great biodiversity not only in plants but also animals. This Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified farm has monkeys, wild boar, deer, cheetah, bison and over 100 species of birds that are found in the areas surrounding the estate. The monkeys do cause some damage to the coffee and fruit trees and firecrackers are used to scare them away. The stem borer is another destructive pest for the Arabica plant and these are kept away by the wrapping method. Any other required pesticides are used in limited quantities and in accordance with certifications from the Rainforest Alliance.
Mrs. Nalima Kariappa lives on the estate full time and looks after the day to day running of the estate. Her daughters help her manage all other aspects of the business. The estate employs full time as well as seasonal workers. Seasonal workers are used during the harvest season. All the workers on the estate are provided with housing, medical and child care facilities, following the Labor Act policies and rules. The estate also looks after the needs of the local village school.
Kambihalli estate is part of a number of organizations that focus on the development of new coffee species and the preservation and growth of the forest. They work with the Karnataka Planters Association, United Planters Association of Southern India, the Coffee Board of India and the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF). The NCF focuses on reforestation and the estate contributes to this effort by planting indigenous trees in small plots.
Being an all woman led organization, Mrs. Nalima Kariappa hopes to inspire other women entrepreneurs across India, encouraging them to be strong and intuitive. She and her daughters aim to leave a legacy of producing high quality artisanal coffee using sustainable agroforestry while empowering women in the coffee industry and beyond.
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