I walked on my favorite street, stopping at the tea stall I stopped every day at 4 pm. We exchanged greetings and my regular lemon mint tea was ready. It was these little things that made Kodi home.
Kodaikanal is a hill station in Tami Nadu with a diverse local population. From other villages of Tamil Nadu to residents from across the world, Kodaikanal is home to generations of history. This diversity has given birth to varied businesses like organic honey, homemade baked goods, stores for a cause, women-run stores, etc.
Having given up on home 2 years earlier, Kodaikanal came closest to feeling at home. It was not because I had any permanent place of boarding, I continued to live on a backpack and changed places every few days/weeks, it was because of the people I met there.
The 7 months that I spent there in 2018 allowed me to get to know some people who are doing great work in healthy and sustainable living while helping local communities thrive.
Here is a list of some of the people I got to know on my journey:
1. Vera and George | George’s Gourmet Kitchen, KSPCA
George’s Gourmet Kitchen: The owner of the first hostel I stayed in in Kodaikanal introduced me to his favorite ‘sourdough bread’, A slice of it was enough to make me fall in love. No trip to town was complete without a loaf of this dense, filling, and healthy bread. The shelf life of 15 days was an added advantage that suited my backpackers’ life.
George has a range of organic products like plum jam, stone ground mustard, pasta sauces, Biscotties, homemade cookies, marmalades, sauces, etc. I always had at least one of his products in my room so of course I was excited to meet the person behind the name – George’s Gourmet kitchen.
Set amidst a sprawling 5 Acre plum tree farm is their house which is an artist’s haven. Around the entrance is the kitchen all products are made at and if you’re lucky to be there during a weekday, be prepared because it smells like heaven.
George uses his bakery to empower local women by providing them a continued, sustainable source of income.
You can buy some of George's products here - https://www.amazon.in/s?me=A203Q2VLFCNATJ&marketplaceID=A21TJRUUN4KGV
KSPCA: Vera is an artist and I was blessed to have been invited in her studio once and thereby getting a peek into her magic world. The inspiring story behind some of her popular work had me and my friends spellbound.
Vera also has carpentry skills and is the one who has made most of the shelves in George’s kitchen.
Together they take care of multiple dogs and provide adoption opportunities to people.
A power couple I look up to. One of the few partnerships that bring meaning to the word partnership.
2. Jayashree Kumar | Library at KIS
A professional editor, Jayashree is a name you would come across at various places in Kodaikanal which might make you wonder how many of them are there but believe me there’s only one of her.
She volunteers at the Library in Kodaikanal International School which is open to all (I was obsessed with this library). She is also part of the knitting club which is the best place to get help with knitting.
You can get her co-authored book on Kodaikanal here - Kodaikanal
Jayashree is also one of the trustees of Potters shed which helps kids with education through the sale of their stunning range of ceramic kitchenware.
Pro Tip: If you’re traveling long term, you might want to consider getting the library’s monthly membership.
3. Anshu and Anurag | Aby’s Cafe, Woodpecker garden store
Anshu runs a charming store of garden decoratives called Woodpecker. it houses terrariums, planters, solar-powered lights, and other beautiful things.
Anurag makes these beautiful houses made entirely of wood and that can be assembled within a week. I had the opportunity to see one in Kodi that has been there for 2 years and looked like it was built yesterday.
Aby’s: Together they also run my favorite cafe in town – Aby’s. During my time in town, I would have at least one meal a day in Aby’s. The cutlery is environment-friendly and the staff is treated like family. What I also love about the cafe is seeing how Anshu treats her staff. I have seen the cafe running on half capacity on a busy day because the staff prioritized home over work and the owners respect that. The food is made in an open kitchen and served with a heavy dollop of love.
4. Priyashri and Nishita | Hoopoe on a Hill
Packed in glass jars with a cotton cloth on the lid, you can’t miss their range of honey in Kodaikanal.
Honey is categorized based on the flower the nectar is taken from like there is Eucalyptus honey, bitter honey, etc. Priya and Nishita have employed local women in their team and get their honey from the Paliyan tribals who have been doing this for generations.
They have added some amazing line of products in the last few years like beeswax crayons, beeswax wrap, candles, balms, etc.
Buy Hoopoe on a hill organic products here - Hoopoe on a Hill
5. Subramaniam Anna | Potter at Potter’s Shed
Samramaniam anna was identified as a skilled local potter and was sponsored for a three-year pottery training in Pondicherry.
His beautiful pottery is available at Potters shed on PT road and the proceeds from the sales are used to educate underprivileged kids in and around Kodaikanal.
You could check with them for a catalogue here - https://www.facebook.com/thepottersshedkodaikanal
Note: Potter’s shed is usually closed on Sunday’s. Do check with them if you want to make a visit on a Sunday.
These are my top recommendations, the faces that make Kodaikanal so special. There are a lot more that I don’t know how to categorize in a blog post.
Have you been to Kodaikanal and seen any of these products on shelves?