Three shrines of coffee have I now foreseen, three goddesses that nurture our love for the bean. From river to ocean, each shows you the way. Find me these shrines, and then will I say: Here’s my treasure, let it fill up your day.
Rahul read the lines aloud to Neha for the tenth time that morning. What did they actually mean? Both of them looked at each other silently and acknowledged that they were stumped. Totally clueless.
Outside, dawn had broken and they could hear the high-pitched charr-charr notes of a single woodpecker breaking the stark silence of the coffee plantations around them. Inside, most of the coffee beans had fallen off the bed and were strewn all over the floor. It had been a memorable night and now they knew for sure that coffee was a great stimulant.
But where was the stimulant that would help them figure out this puzzle, one written by a mysterious monk who had died long ago, leaving a great treasure hidden? Where were these three shrines that the monk had spoken of? Where exactly should they begin?
Pooviah brought them their morning coffee in an elegant tray with a pot and two cups of white bone china. ‘Sir, I used those pink coffee beans you gave me to make coffee for Madam and for you today. The smell of this coffee is getting better with each passing day, Sir.’
The old woman’s coffee! In the midst of all the other excitements of the past two days, Rahul had nearly forgotten about this. ‘Yes, yes, Pooviah, please pour coffee for us.’
The walnutty flavour came back to them once again. Superb! As they sipped the coffee, Neha leant back and read the puzzle once again. Suddenly, she could clearly see the author himself, the venerable monk. He appeared vividly in her mind. Orange-robed monk, fat, bald and peaceful, walking somewhere. Where was he walking to? And then, behind the monk, she saw flowing waters. A few words from the puzzle swam in front of her now-dilated pupils: From river to ocean, each shows you the way.
She sat up with a start. ‘Rahul, listen. Listen to me. We need to go to a river, one that will show us the way to the first shrine. That’s what the monk meant when he wrote “from river to ocean”. The river first, and then the ocean will show us the way. That’s why he put those words in his note, to give us a clue. I can see him in my mind, Rahul. He is walking by that river, right over there, right now.’
Rahul glanced at the lines once again. What Neha said made sense. They had nothing else to go on anyway. Then, he remembered something, a local guidebook kept in their room that he had briefly gone over yesterday. It spoke of a river nearby. He went into the room, brought out the small guidebook, turned a few pages, and began reading aloud:
The Kaveri is the patron goddess of all coffee growers in Coorg. Flowing through the beautiful coffee plantations and nurturing them like her own special children, the Kaveri is the great river of this region. Originating in the foothills of the Western Ghats, the river meanders through the region of Coorg and the vast Deccan plateau before it eventually flows into the Bay of Bengal. The Kaveri quenches this region’s thirst for water and makes it one of the most fertile lands known to mankind. From these lands of the Kaveri come some of the finest coffees the world has ever known.
Rahul turned to Neha. ‘Neha, I think you are absolutely right. We must go to the Kaveri. That’s where we will begin.’
He continued reading the guidebook.
The Kaveri is not merely a river, but a goddess who is worshipped by everyone in this coffee growing region of Coorg. The unique coffee of Coorg springs from the sweet waters of this sacred river. Coffee requires a lot of water for its flowering, and the Kaveri provides it in abundance. The varieties of coffee grown on the fertile banks of the Kaveri are known for their robust body, light acidity and soft liquor, making them some of the most sought-after beans in the world.
Rahul paused here, absorbing this beautiful description of the coffee. ‘Robust body, light acidity, soft liquor, wow! I must taste these coffees from the banks of the Kaveri.’ Then he saw something in the guidebook which made his pulse quicken. He read it out in hushed tones:
There are many shrines built for the Kaveri, to worship and celebrate this goddess, who is the presiding deity of the region. The best known shrine is located at the source of the river called Talakaveri. The river originates near this shrine, as a spring, and the water then flow underground to emerge as the magnificent Kaveri some distance away. The road to Talakaveri is surrounded by coffee plantations and suffused by the intoxicating aromas of coffee. Many monks and holy people visit this shrine throughout the year.
Rahul turned to Neha. ‘We must go to Talakaveri, Neha. I am sure that is where our Japanese monk has left directions for us. He must have visited this shrine and left something there. This is a shrine of the river that nurtures coffee, and so it is a shrine of coffee itself. That is what the monk must have meant. This is where our search must begin.’
Excerpted with permission from An Extreme Love of Coffee: A Novel, Harish Bhat, Penguin India. Read more about the book here and buy it here.