Among the thousand exotic secrets of India, the southern coffee trails are perhaps the best kept. This is why you’ll find relatively few tourists around the verdant, tropical hills in South India, where local coffee cultivation began over a hundred years ago.

But if you’re a bean connoisseur and are dying to take a vacation, here’s a peek at some of the most celebrated coffee-growing destinations in the country.

The Blue Bean Of The Nilgiris

In the 70’s, Kodaikanal’s banana farmers faced a serious threat – a deadly fungal disease was spreading through the plantations, killing crops and farmers’ dreams alike. In a bid to recover their livelihoods, farmers uprooted their banana plants and sowed coffee instead. And over the past thirty years, Kodaikanal coffee plantations have gone from being underdog producers to winning prestigious Italian awards for the excellence of their bean.

Unlike Chikmagalur and Coorg, coffee in Kodaikanal is grown on a small-scale by organic farmers who often practice permaculture on the same estate. Freshly ground Arabica is most often preferred by the locals, but a tour to the upper coffee estates can yield some surprisingly good Robustas too!

Although mild flavoured, coffee beans from this region are known for their full-bodied taste and rich aroma, balanced out by a tinge of acidity. Get in touch with staff at the Sterling Kodai Valley, and they’ll be more than happy to hook you up with a guided trek through the plantations.

A Century Of Coffee In Yercaud

For over 100 years, this hill station has refined the art of growing, harvesting and roasting coffee beans until they impart an almost ambrosial flavour to the brew.

Pepper, cardamom and clove dot the Yercaud coffee plantations, yielding beans that have a fruity, spice-infused tilt to their natural chocolate overtones. Produce from the Shevaroys estate, in particular, is often called ‘the best coffee in India’ by bean lovers around the world.

Yercaud’s coffee trails also offer much more than a refreshingly spicy cuppa – as you move through a landscape filled with silver oak trees and flowering vines, you might catch a glimpse of an Indian bison or a spotted leopard. The region is also speckled with waterfalls and lofty alcoves that make fantastic picnic spots if you want to spend the day wandering through the hills.

Wayanad – Kerala’s Coffee Capital

One of the country’s premier producers of Robusta, Wayanad is home to thousands of coffee brews, both blended and single origin. Since the region is a secondary processing center for beans that come from all over South India, a trip to Wayanad is a delicious way to sample a whole range of domestic coffees.

But don’t take this to mean that you’ll never find local flavours in your cup! The laterite-rich soil and gentle climate of these hills develop a bean with a more neutral profile than others, while still retaining the classical full-body and powerful aroma of Indian coffee.

If you’re looking for a place to experience the best of Wayanad’s coffee plantations, Sterling resorts can offer you both guided estate tours and direct access to growers and brewers in the area.