Located along the rich mineral soils of the Bhadra river belt, in the picturesque hamlet of Magundi, Chickmagalur Sethuraman estate produces some of the finest Robusta coffee in the world. Elevated at over 900m above sea level coffee here is shade grown with eco-friendly pest & weed management. We first dealt with Nishant Ramesh Gurjer, the current owner way back in 2011. Nishant himself took over the family estate back in 1995, but it’s been in the family for over 200 years. Educated originally in business administration and engineering Nishant ran a SWOT analysis and decided that excellent robusta would be his niche, and 25 years later he’s been proven right.
Eco friendly and ethically farmed, for Nishant, means doing more than just the law or certificates prescribe. Organic certified coffee is grown on the farm, but the whole farm produces organically, and glyphosate has not been used now for over 5 years. To replace this, a system of cover plants grows which protects the plants and covers the soil. This is important as they see protecting the environment for future generations as a big issue.
All coffee is grown under native shade trees, not so much an intercropping system as the trees themselves were there first. However they do produce fruit and both pepper and betel nut grow as secondary products to coffee. Robusta loves sun more than arabica, but decision was made that the native canopy was more important, and would have an impact on the health of the wildlife, and birdlife in particular. The Peacock is common on his farm and is where the inspiration for the logo comes from. In 1995 he took over, when both Arabica and Robusta grew on the farm.
The estate produces natural, washed and pulped natural coffees and has won numerous awards over its more recent history before being the first farm in the world to be certified as Fine Robusta or ‘R’ graded Coffee by the Coffee Quality Institute. Similar to ‘Q’ graded coffees known amongst the speciality Arabica world, this was set up to showcase what robusta, grown and processed well, can achieve; coffees need to score above 80 in order to be given the certificate. Only around 30 coffees globally have actually been certified R grade since the beginning (up until Jan 2021), and 17 of those are from Sethuraman.
They experiment with washed, honey, anaerobic and aerobic fermentations. Cup profiles are created based on requirements of the customer, and they use the same equipment as you’d expect to find at the top end of Arabica farms, measuring sugar content, undertaking plant analyses and soil analyses which all play their part in maintaining quality. Measurements are taken before the cherry is formed, measuring the health of the plant and thereby preventing issues, not just the cherry when it has formed when an issue may have set in. Hand harvested, then hand sorted before processing, some of the only machines used are for checking the mucilage and gravity sorting the beans. Coffee is exclusively sun dried, and with a permanent workforce of 200 with 200 seasonal workers that return year after year the knowledge is ingrained and energy spent on improving rather than learning. For those that do need to learn on the farm though, Sethuraman provide schooling for the children so they can benefit as well.