Brewing for Prosperity!

The Beautiful Araku Valley!

Araku Valley, in Andhra Pradesh (India) is a lovely scenic region with undulating hills and home to indigenous communities. The Araku Organic Coffee Project and related activities is for these communities. It is for these tribal farmers to get an opportunity at a livelihood to ensure their financial, nutritional and food security.

Gems of Araku is a unique coffee cupping competition conceived to showcase and promote the sale/export of the Araku Organic Coffee to the world. It supports Naandi Foundation’s Livelihoods program, which leverages coffee and other agricultural produce to drive increased incomes and livelihood improvements for nearly 11,000 small and marginal tribal farmers in the Araku Valley region of Andhra Pradesh. The coffee is grown by a landmark farmer cooperative SAMTFMACS (Small and Marginal Tribal Farmer Mutually Aided Cooperative Society) – one of the largest Fairtrade and organic certified coffee cooperatives in the world.

The purpose of “Gems of Araku” event is to raise coffee quality standards for the Araku farmers and thus build a recognisable brand.  This will in turn ensure higher prices and  help improve the living conditions of the Araku Tribal farmers and their families. The competition is unparalleled in its span and scope.  Spread over two weeks, across three cities, and combining a cupping competition with social events, cultural performances, and an awards ceremony in Araku Gems of Araku is unique in the indigenous coffee world. It showcases the project’s achievements, provides critical exposure for the coffee, and instils a true sense of pride in the tribal farmers.

The fourth edition of Gems of Araku kicked off at Coffeelab Pvt. Ltd. in Bangalore on 12 March, 2012 and came to a close on 5 April, 2012.

People behind Gems of Araku:

Araku Originals Ltd

Araku Originals Ltd (AOL) is an social enterprise company created with the main objective of facilitating the work of Naandi Foundation and small farmer groups [such as SAMTFMACS] in the field of value addition in agriculture and marketing resulting in income generation for marginalized farmers. The vision is to create a world class global Indian brand that reflects the core values of  social enterprise by being ecologically sustainable, focused on supporting BOP small producers and adding real value for discerning global consumers.

Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society

The Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (SAMTFMACS), registered in 2007 that envisions evolving into a dynamic sustainable tribal farmers’ cooperative, working towards integrated development of the tribal farmer community in Araku Valley, India. With more than 11,500 members, it is one of the largest Fairtrade and organic certified coffee cooperatives in the world.  The members of SAMTFMACS are marginalised tribal farmers with small (less than one hectare) land holdings.

 Naandi Foundation

Naandi Foundation, established in 1998, is an autonomous, professional; not-for-profit trust dedicated to changing the lives of India’s poorest, through public private partnerships. Guiding Naandi in its initiatives is its board of trustees chaired by Dr. K Anji Reddy, Founder and Chairman of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. Other board members include thought leaders and eminent corporate citizens of India namely Dr. Isher Ahluwalia of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), Mr. Anand Mahindra of Mahindra Group, and Mr. Rajendra Prasad of Soma Enterprise.  is one of the largest social enterprises in India, touching over 4 million lives.  The core areas of Naandi’s work are child rights, sustainable livelihoods and safe drinking water.

Dr. Sunalini Menon:

One of the key contributors to the Araku Organic Coffee Project is Dr. Sunalini Menon. As the Director of Coffeelab Pvt Ltd and a member of the Naandi Advisory Committee, Dr. Menon has played a significant role in the improvement of Araku Organic Coffee by keeping a close eye on processing and in turn the quality.

Pre-jury (Bangalore, Karnataka, India 12 March 2012- 13 March 2012)

Sunalini Menon (r) and Mrs. Jesse Ovien inspect the coffee sample

Sushath HR happily going through the coffee sample

The first leg of the cupping event began on 12 March, 2012 at Coffeelab Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore with the Visual Inspection round. Eminent Coffee growers, traders and experts from the Indian Coffee industry came together for this evaluation during which the coffee samples went through a stringent inspection and scored on the basis of visual quality and defect analysis. This edition of Gems of Araku received an overwhelming response from the farmers. After a strict visual inspection process, a select number of samples made it through to the next round – The National Jury round.

In this pre jury round Dr. Sunalini Menon, was joined by

Mr. Ashok A.N, Amalgamated Holdings Ltd. Bangalore
Mrs. Renuka Gangadhar, Coffeelab
Mr. Sushanth R, Olam Agro India Ltd., Bangalore
Mr. Ram Chethan, Coffee Professional, Bangalore
Mr. Jacob Mammen, Badra Estates & Industries
Mr. Shivaram C.A, Parimala Coffee Works, Davangere
Mr. Ashok Kuriyan Balanoor Plantations and Industries Ltd., Bangalore
Mr. Prem Kurien, Devon Plantations and Industries Ltd., Bangalore
Ms. Omana Chethan, Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company Limited
Mr. Purnesh Classic Coffee
Ms. Jesse Ovian, Indcaffe, Bangalore
Mr. Nandan Gowda, Thogarihunkal Highland Coffee

National Jury (Bangalore, Karnataka, India: 14 March – 15 March, 2012):

Jury Omana Chethan cupping a coffee sample

In this second leg, an expert panel of jurors from the Indian Coffee industry came together to cup the coffee shortlisted in the pre-jury round. The samples were put to a tougher test in this round as the jury members evaluated the coffee on several parameters and nuances such as its aroma and flavour. After each session they gave their feedback, suggestions and selected 52 samples for the final International Jury round.

Following are our esteemed National Jury Members:

Dr. Sunalini Menon, Coffeelab
Mrs. Renuka Gangadhar, Coffeelab
Ms. Jesse Ovian, Indcaffe, Bangalore
Mr. Sushanth R, Olam Agro India Ltd., Bangalore
Mr. Ram Chethan, Coffee Professional, Bangalore
Mr. Nandan Gowda, Thogarihunkal Highland Coffee
Mr. Basavraj K, Coffee Board, Bangalore
Mr. Praveen Kumar Kolimarla, Coca-cola India Limited, Bangalore

International Jury Round (Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India 2-4 April, 2012)

Members of the International Jury during a cupping session

Equipped with aprons, spoons and intense concentration, a panel of nine jurists, comprising of eminent international tasters of impeccable standing in the industry such as Ms. Sunalini Menon from Coffeelab, Mr. Paul O’Toole, Bewley’s Limited from  Ireland,  Mr. Andreas Hertzberg  from Solberg & Hansen AS, Norway, Mr. Mark Stell, Portland Roasting, USA, Mr. Pil Hoon Seu and Mr. Ian Kluse, Olam International from USA and  Mr. Baba Shunta, UCC Ueshima Coffee from Japan cupped 52 different types of coffee.

The sound of slurping filled the room.  The jury did blind cupping. A numerical code on the coffee indicating the Araku mandal of its origin, whether it is organic or in conversion and whether it is natural or washed were the only details provided.

Using a special form to evaluate coffee on a scale on 1-10, the cuppers rated coffee on aroma, fragrance, body, acidity, flavour, cleanliness & finish of the cup.  An interesting discussion followed after each round of cupping. The jury then gather together to share notes, and to determine the highlights from all of the coffees they cupped.

At the end of two and a half days of rigorous cupping, the scores were all put together and the winners picked out.

The Award Ceremony (Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh, India 6 April, 2012): 

International Jury Members, Guests, Farmers and the Naandi team at the Award Ceremony.

On 6 April, 2012 all the jury members and the Naandi Foundation team journeyed  to Araku Valley for the final leg of Gems of Araku – to meet the people who produce these gems. The Award Ceremony took place at the Central Coffee Processing Unit. Five thousand farmers attended the function and cheered for each other. The unity and support shown by them was truly remarkable. The award winning farmers were rewarded with a certificate of recognition and a cash prize. The Indian as well as International jury members  commended the improvement in the quality of coffee  which is now exported to the continents of Asia, Europe, America and Australia making it a global phenomenon!