Coffee was introduced to Araku in the early 1900’s from neighbouring Pamuleru Valley, and in 2007, Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (SAMTFMACS), a coffee farmer cooperative formed with assistance from The Naandi Foundation, was formed to push the coffee production there even further. It operates across seven mandals in the area – Araku, Hukumpeta (where this lot is from), Dumbriguda, Anathagiri, Paderu, Pedhabaylu and Munchinpet – covering 13,560 of land used for growing coffee. Araku farmers have decentralised small and scattered plots averaging 1-2 acres per family, and are subsistence farmers, balancing cash crops such as pepper, turmeric, and ginger with coffee production. There are 1320 farmers that contribute to this lot.
A state-of-the-art Coffee Processing Unit was set up in Araku, fully equipped with latest machinery such as coffee pulpers. Naandi in association with Araku Originals Private Limited (AOPL), a connected for-profit social enterprise, is also the first in the country to receive global accreditation as a Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) Premier Training Campus offering courses on green coffee, barista skills, brewing, and roasting, along with authorized SCA trainers.
An area that previously used slash and burn deforestation techniques had reduced the land to semi wasteland and with no traditional knowledge of how to grow coffee; production was low and of poor quality. By providing technical support and training in all areas needed for a small farmer, the cooperative has managed to significantly increase the quality and quantity of coffee grown, to what can recognisably be seen as Indian speciality coffee.
Being ‘in the trees’ now provides great incentives to protect the forest as well. Over the last 5 years of the 10 they have been growing organically they are seeing a good return of worms spiders and birds; farmers have come together to create a movement towards ethical and sustainable production of coffee through regenerative agriculture, while ensuring that natural biodiversity of the region is restored through additional planting of as many as 28 varieties of diverse and indigenous fruit and forest trees.
Coffee for this lot is chosen when the cherry is deep crimson red. Dried on a mixture of raised beds and solar mechanical facilities, cherries are covered at night with fine cotton cloth to protect from any additional moisture due to condensation.