A Trip To Araku: From Freshly Brewed Coffee At Cafes To Coffee Plantations

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.

With a long weekend at hand, we took an overnight bus from Hyderabad to Vizag ( No direct buses or trains to Araku) and immediately 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.
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 bee keeping, and what better than a personal tour by a friend?

This is the order in which we toured the plantation. 

Coffee beans processing process

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 visited the tribal museum here. Worth a visit for some interesting sculptures portraying the tribal village life.

tribal museum, Araku valley

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.

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.

Araku Valley

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 autorikshaw sightseeing tour to the Anantgiri hills, enjoying the views of the green hills all around in an auto we shared with an Oriya Couple! (The auto tourism is going to be a thing, I say!)

Tribal women Araku valley

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 50-60rs for 100gms)

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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. 

(I couldn’t take my camera inside, but here’s a great shot by a fellow traveler, TheHappyfeet.)

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.

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 – The filter coffee.

Araku 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?

This cafe also houses a coffee museum, which of course we had to visit to complete this coffee trail.

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!


Recovering from the brief shock, we stepped inside into the museum and thankfully the museum is all sober and tastefully done. Here the entire history of coffee is beautifully documented via ethnic sculptures. 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.

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

This officially ended our Araku Valley cum Coffee Tour trip and after a scenic bus journey back to Vizag, we spent a few hours on the beach and returned to Hyderabad the next morning.

If you’re looking for a short break away from Hyderabad or anywhere close and/or love coffee, an Araku valley is surely your cuppa 🙂


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