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Coffee, Caves And Cool Climes: A Weekend Trip To Araku Valley


Chances are, you haven't heard of Araku Valley. Tucked away on the eastern edge of the state of Andhra Pradesh, is this little quaint hill station (elevated about 900 mts ~) in the Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) district, famous for its coffee plantations and home to a large number of South Indian Tribals. Long before the famous Araku cafe chains came about, we made a trip to Araku (in 2014) and actually sat in a legit Araku Cafe :)


Scene train ride from Vizag to Araku


With a long weekend at hand, we took an overnight bus from Hyderabad to Vizag (there are no direct buses or trains from Hyderabad to Araku) and got on the 3-hour train from Vizag to Araku Valley. Now this train journey is supposed to be beautiful, with scenic views of the green valley on all sides, passing through many tunnels. However since my trip was during the peak of summers, the journey wasn't as scenic as it could be.


Visiting a coffee processing unit


On reaching Araku, I met up with my friend, Christelle - A French girl who then worked on a sustainable living project at the farms in Araku.  The first stop on our trip was to visit a coffee processing unit as this was part of Christelle's work on sustainable farming and what better than a personal tour by a friend?


We toured the coffee plantation admiring the long and ardous steps that go into the seemingly simple beverage we start our day with. From harvesting the coffee plant to separating the coffee beans to cleaning, drying and roasting them - the bean to mug process involved in coffee is simply fascinating.




Impressed with how organised the entire coffee processing unit is, and now smugly armed with the knowledge of how coffee beans are processed, we came back to Araku and stayed with Christelle.


Living the village life at Paderu


A 2-hour bus ride took us down to Paderu, a village where Christelle lived and was the only foreigner. The house was a humble 1bhk tucked away at the foot of a hillock with minimum facilities around, without electricity for the most part and water had to be drawn manually from a nearby well. Christelle even spoke a bit of Telugu and blended into crowded markets with her colourful cotton kurtas! To see someone from a first world country, give up a city's comforts and work on a farm, and live effortlessly and adapt to the rural Indian lifestyle was a humbling experience.


Full of a new found respect for her, we called it a day and slept peacefully against the quietude and serenity typical of a village.


The next day, we got a glorious South Indian breakfast at a Darshini in Paderu and set off for an auto rikshaw sightseeing tour to the Anantgiri hills, enjoying the views of the green hills all around in an auto we shared with another couple! (the auto shared tourism is going to be a thing.)





We were stopped enroute to visit a coffee plantation. Clearly, this trip was dominated by coffee! However since this was not the harvest season yet, no coffee cherry (fruit) were to be spotted, however buying some filter coffee here is highly recommended as the coffee is delicious, pure and is quite reasonable at around Rs. 50-60 for 100gms)


A side trip Borra Caves


Next, we checked out the magnificent Borra Caves which were the surprise package of the trip! Never expected that tucked away in a nondescript place like Araku would we find caves that were as large and spectacular as those. Vast, well maintained and full of beautiful formations, the Borra caves were well worth the time and travel.





By the time we were done at the caves, it was late and we had already missed the last bus back to Araku. We waited and then got into a sharing auto, a bit daunted by a 2 hour journey in the dark through the undulating mountainous terrains and bends in an autorickshaw! However our fears were soon alleviated, and the auto-ride turned out to be rather fun, given the disco lights and music in it.


Coffee at an Araku cafe


The next and the final day, we kicked back at the district's only cafe - do note their interesting tribal-art inspired iron furniture- and sampled their readymade coffees like the ever-favourite Cappuccino, the mocchacino and the South Indian staple - filter coffee. 





What have the Starbucks and the CCDs of the world got on enjoying a freshly brewed coffee out of beans grown less than a mile away, while surrounded by the hills and horses?


Coffee Museum in Coffeeland This cafe also houses a coffee museum, which traces the history of coffee in Araku Valley.


Now this is the interesting part! The entrance to this coffee museum is via a weird art installation/capsule/horizontal elevator which moves 180* degrees while playing an AV about coffee, throwing psychedelic laser patterns all over, making for a very trippy, albeit out-of-place experience!


"The museum features tableaus with dolls depicting the processes involved in making coffee and the Sampoorna Coffee Gallery exhibits dioramas about the history of the bean. The murals also illustrate the journey of coffee from being berries to being ground and roasted and brewed in a cup." Right from the Kahwa of Africa to the Java of Indonesia and including our own plantations in Araku, Nilgiris and Chikamaglur, coffee history and associated folklore from across the world to be sampled here. No photos allowed inside, so you just have to take my word on it or check it out yourself.


You could also buy assorted coffee powders, various cafe merchandise and special caffeine-flavoured chocolates at the cafe. 


We got back to Vizag enroute from Araju back to Hyderabad and spent a chill evening on the Vizag beach.


We came back with fond memories, a lot of coffee powder and a new-found respect for our cuppas.


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 I (Monica) am a lifelong traveler, (40 countries), sustainability and veganism advocate, and a marketer by profession. I'm old school in that I still like to blog and document rather than shoot and post.

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