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Paliyar Tribals Have Been Making Their Own Coffee Powder For Generations, Here’s How

Translated from Tamil by Nisha Felicita

My Paliyar tribe lives in the hilly region of Tamil Nadu, and we revere the mountain and forest. Living primarily in forests, we have been using the resources from the forest to live our lives for centuries. Over time, we have also developed a few tools and methods that help us carry out our activities efficiently. We used to use stones to plough the earth and dig into the side of a mountain to make a cave to live in. We used tools we could create with wood and stone and foraged food from the forests.

One such food item that the Paliyars depended on during the cold and rain was coffee. Coffee has been used for generations to help keep us warm.

Coffee bean

How Coffee Is Made In The Paliyar Community

The coffee beans are collected from the forest, the skin is peeled, thoroughly sun-dried on rocks. A branch is then cut and a stick is made, and the dried coffee beans are ground on the coarse rock, until the beans turn to a fine powder. The powder is collected and stored until the winter and monsoon, where it is boiled in hot water and consumed.

The coffee concoction that the Paliyars made refreshed them, that’s why it was regularly consumed in the mornings and evenings. During the times when the Paliyars couldn’t find food, they drank coffee to survive.

Peeled coffee beans

Paliyars Displaced From Coffee Plantations

The Paliyars used to live in and around coffee plantations. However, when the upper caste men found out that this coffee can be commercialized and sold, they chased the Paliyars from their own lands and took the coffee plantations for themselves to create profit. After chasing us away, they planted coffee all over the estate and exported it to cities, other states and countries abroad. This coffee powder is sold in different colours and different names in stores everywhere. The outside traders who export this coffee powder add food colourants and other adulterants and sell it as coffee powder

Although this coffee is now sold and consumed on a large scale, we must rethink the choices we make regarding coffee and educate ourselves about what preservatives and additives in the coffee powder. The best option? Create your own coffee powder, as we do!

This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.

This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz


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