Fifth-generation coffee planter Chandni D Maneesh, of Classic Coffees, set up a sustainable homestay on her family-owned Harley Estate in Sakleshpur, Karnataka. In a candid chat with us, she shares her ambitious business plans and favourite travel memories. By Sushmita Srivastav
1. Classic Coffees has come a long way from brewing the perfect cup of coffee to hosting guests at Golden Wood in the middle of the estate. How did you evolve?
The journey has been exciting and challenging since this was something we had been planning for a long time. The idea took shape and gradually started to evolve into something even we had not envisioned. There are new advancements every day. We see the two businesses going hand in hand—whether you’re looking for that vacation and get the coffee, or looking for the coffee and get this immersive experience with it.
2. You’re a fifth-generation coffee planter. How do you feel coffee tourism has evolved in India?
Coffee tourism has gone from simple homestays to five-star resorts over the last decade. What used to be a simple cup of filter coffee, as you woke up in your host’s home, has now turned into full-fledged cafes at resorts. We have our guests indulging in the entire plantation, from harvesting to processing the coffee and even spending time in our R&D lab, experiencing different brewing methods and food pairings. We also encourage our guests to experience the local culture by picking their fruit and consuming local cuisine, made from produce grown organically on our farms.
3. Tell us about the sustainable practices you practise as an entrepreneur.
We go out of our way to make sure we don’t use plastics, create our own energy, grow our own food, etc. We employ techniques that most of us grew up using in the good old days. From fresh spring water for drinking and bathing— instead of bottled or RO water—to solar power for all of our cottages. We would like to eventually become a fully sustainable operation. We also try to avoid any packaged food or beverages so as to create less waste.
4. What are the causes that you strongly feel about, other than hospitality and coffee?
I have been working intensively on the conservation of wildlife on our estate. In our first survey, we identified over 400 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and other creatures that live on the property. We are also trying to implement better and more sustainable farming methods to ensure their longevity. Also, a major part of our labour force consists of women. We offer them healthcare and nutrition, and education for their daughters.
5. What’s next for Classic Coffees and Golden Wood?
This year, we are working on creating micro-lots of coffee. Similar to numbered bottles of single malt, these small batches are grown in specific areas and processed uniquely. At Golden Wood, we aim to upgrade all of our existing cottages as well as add more experiences.
6. What is your idea of the ideal detox vacation?
A getaway from the daily humdrum of life, a place where there’s no network, no WiFi, and no TV. Today, we are constantly connected, and the fear of missing out looms large on our psyche. To get away from all of that and to let go in the lap of nature, is my idea of digital detox.
7. A travel memory you cherish.
There are quite a few memories, from different trips. I’m an avid traveller, and my early travel memories are of going to the estate with my family, trekking, and swimming in the pond. We also did most of South India by road and explored some amazing places.
As I grew up, my hunger for travel took me to several places. Food is a large part of my travels. I always have a list of things that I want to try. This invariably includes what some people may not find very appetising, for instance, the ‘smileys’ in Khayelitsha and the tiny snails in Hoi An. I can never get over the look on my friend’s face the first time we tried the snails. A road trip through Bhutan was another amazing experience.
8. What’s the next destination or experience on your bucket list?
The list is endless, but to start with, I’d love to travel to Iceland and the Scandinavian islands.
9. A city you love going back to?
I have visited Barcelona a few times and have enjoyed it more and more on every visit. The restaurants that have been around for ages, the beaches, and the quaint little bars have stolen my heart. Seville and Stellenbosch are also on the top of my list.
10. How do you think we can make travel safer for women?
Travelling alone isn’t the safest option for women in many parts of the world. Having more women, not only in hospitality but also among policymakers, will bring about a huge difference. There are several groups organising and encouraging women to travel. But there’s a need for stricter laws to deter miscreants. The society has a huge role to play too—respecting women has to become an inherent behaviour for all.