An Adventure With Coffee & Cruisers In The Hills Of Tamil Nadu

Shaun Pais relives his caffeine fuelled ride through the hills of Tamil Nadu.

This probably isn’t the best way to start a story but in the name of honesty, here goes… cruisers aren’t my cup of tea. They’re too low to the ground, often underpowered with very large turning radiuses, and I also find them unnecessarily heavy. Plus they’re really cramped for my six foot frame, especially on longer rides. To me, they’ve always seemed like ‘old people’ motorcycles. Similarly, I’m not much of a coffee connoisseur either. Sure, I do consume a cup diligently every morning but that’s purely to fuel my caffeine intake for the day and has nothing to do with the beans or type of press.

So when the Royal Enfield Meteor X Blue Tokai ride came up, I was in quite a dilemma. Clearly, I’m not an enthusiast for either of these. So riding down a thousand plus kilometres seemed like a clear no. But then I pondered harder. Maybe this was the universe giving me a sign. A two-night trip in the southern hills where I’d have maximum exposure to both cruisers and specialty coffee. This was their chance at redemption and it would be unfair of me to not give them this shot. 

The Adventure Begins

And there I was in Bengaluru with 12 other very talented creators, writers and explorers. All of us in the parking lot of a hotel that had about a dozen shiny new Meteor 350s, all geared up and ready to ride into Yercaud to experience some of the finest coffee. The Meteor 350 was the first Royal Enfield motorcycle born with the well acclaimed J series engine at heart. I was allotted the Fireball Red. 

The route, once we crossed into Tamil Nadu, was mostly a plain highway for the majority of the journey, which pretty much is what the Meteor was built for. But just when we thought this was getting a little too boring, we began the ascent to Yercaud where 20 steep hairpin bends awaited us! With every hairpin, you could feel the weather get a little cooler and the air get a little cleaner.

A little bit of trail riding at the end and we reached MSP’s Heaven’s Ledge which, in my opinion, has a view that pictures can’t do justice to. You have to experience it in person.

Navin, the owner of the property, rode the last 50 odd kilometres with us on his own Super Meteor. Before he escorted us to our luxurious tents, he gave us a small brief on what the next day’s activities looked like.

Temperatures drop a couple of degrees at night and if you leave your comfortable bed in the morning for the sunrise, you’ll see all the hills below covered in snow. Navin and his family have been in Yercaud for generations now. They collectively own more than a thousand acres of land in this hilly paradise.

Riding High

On day two, we quickly wrapped up breakfast and Navin’s cousin Kamlesh, who also happens to be the manager of the estate, took us for a hike. He taught us the intricacies of the coffee berry business, explained why Yercaud coffee is different from the other plantations and even told us what to do if we encounter a wild bison – a situation that is quite likely in these parts! A few hours later, Kamlesh took us to the unpicked coffee plantations where we were all a part of a coffee berry picking contest. 30 minutes later, we all gathered at the central area and Navin judged the picked berries for quantity and quality. The redder the berries, the better they are for coffee. One team won the contest and one team was left baffled. I’m not allowed to tell you which one I was a part of due to confidentiality reasons, of course.

Post lunch we were back on the Meteors and made our way to the large processing plant at Stanmore Estate. Here we learnt more about the fermentation process, the washing and drying of Arabica seeds, and even learnt about coffee made from the poop of civet cats and monkeys!

A Final Brew

The final day started off with Rohan from Blue Tokai teaching us more about coffee and how to navigate the different flavours. He even brewed a unique batch of a nutty and chocolatey coffee for us, which little did we know at the time was actually a new blend that’s now known as the Royal Enfield Cruise Blend! Try this out the next time you visit a Blue Tokai outlet or if you order in from Swiggy or Zomato.

Post this, we said our goodbyes after having met some of the most unique and lovely people on this trip. Just as we were gearing up to leave, we got a call from Navin with the sweetest request. Navin’s mother has mobility issues, due to which getting to the estates for her is an issue. She was upset that a bunch of motorcyclists came from different parts of the country and explored her estate, but she couldn’t greet them. Without any hesitation, all of us made the small detour to Navin’s house before we set out for Bengaluru once again.

Lessons Learnt

At the end of the two nights we spent in Yercaud, it all became clear to me. Cruisers and exquisite coffee are actually pretty good. Regardless of what anyone thinks, there definitely is an audience for them. They’re still a part of niche categories, but you’ll find loyalists who will always continue to swear by them. 

To make things simple, filter/instant coffee is like daal chawal. It’s sustenance for me and I still can’t imagine a tough day without it. But every now and then, replacing it with a few exotic coffee beans won’t hurt. In fact, it’ll even open your eyes to the large world of speciality coffees and cool cafés.

The Meteor, like every other cruiser, is low to the ground. And if you’re short or new to motorcycles, it’s such a huge benefit. The lack of intimidation means more people get to explore the joy of riding, which I can only see as a massive win. It pays homage to the Bullet which, in essence, is the first cruiser we’ve had in India.

I’m still very loyal to adventure motorcycles and their ‘go anywhere ability’. But how about a cool, low-slung cruiser in the garage? One that wakes the neighbourhood when it’s fired up? One that looks vintage but is packed to the teeth with modern tech? One to take to a sophisticated cafe for a late night coffee date? It’s only been one long weekend but you can already count me as converted!

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Oscar & Ponni + Rahul Architects is an esteemed architectural and interior design firm based in Chennai.