Part of a new project for Cafe Imports, this lot comes to us from the Doi Pangkhon region of Thailand. Starting last harvest season (2014-2015), Cafe Imports has been working with a group of young farmers at Doi Pangkhon to bring their coffee to the international market. With altitude ranging from 1250-1500 meters above sea level, Doi Pangkhon is an ideal place to produce specialty coffee.
The farmers come from several indigenous hill tribes, including the Akha, Yao and Lahu people. Currently the main economic crop is Arabica coffee, mixed with many types of fruit trees suitable for high elevation farming, such as macadamia, peach, persimmon, plum, and pear. These trees also act as shade trees for coffee. Many farmers also plant vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes to sustain their livelihood and diversify their sources of income.
The varieties grown are a mixture of Caturra, Chiang Mai 80 (a locally developed hyprid which is a variation on Catimor),Bourbon and Typica. Harvest occurs from December - March and the average farm size is 2 - 5 hectares.
The beans were processed using a Kenya Style Washed method, meaning the coffee cherries were pulped, dry fermented for one night and then wet fermented again for an additional night to completely remove the mucilage. The bean were then dried on raised beds, milled, graded by size then separated by density before finally being hand sorted. All the coffee is shipped in triple-layered bags. The outer layer is a woven polypropylene (PP) bag and the first inner layer is a high-density polyethylene (HDPE). These two layers are typically used to ship rice grains to preserve freshness. For coffee, a GrainPro bag is added as the second inner layer.
Doi Pangkhon, in the Chaing Rai province, is perhaps the most exciting region in Thailand at the moment. Its condition for growing Arabica coffee is on par with other well-known origins in Central America. It has the right altitude, micro climate and soil to produce specialty coffee. More importantly, coffee has proven to work as a sustainable cash crop for farmers due to the strong domestic consumption and the level of development of the country. Farmers are obtaining good prices for their coffee, even in the domestic market. This means children of farming families are actually returning home to farm. It is not uncommon to meet a Thai coffee farmer with a bachelor degree. With a typical age of 25-35, they are very open to experimentation and excited to keep improving production, important for driving the specialty coffee market.
This is one of the first Thai specialty coffee lots that is available from Cafe Imports. It is a result of a locally driven initiative by a young group of farmers from the Akha Hill tribe along with roasters and exporters in the country to produce the best of their coffees. Cafe Imports is proud to be assisting them in bringing their coffee to the specialty coffee market in the United States and to continue assisting them in quality improvement.
Thailand is not traditionally known as a coffee producing country, let alone specialty coffee producing country. YetThailand produces as much Arabica coffee as Panama, Hawaii and Jamaica combined. The Arabica coffee production started out as part of a strategy to eradicate opium plantation by the government and the King of Thailand. For many decades, Northern Thailand had been an area riddled with opium plantation and high rate of drug trafficking as part of the infamous Golden Triangle drug trade route. In the early 1980s, farmerswere encouraged by the government and the royal initiatives to switch from growing opium as cash crop to planting Arabica coffee as the conditions required to grow opium and coffee are similar.
Thailand consumes more coffee than it can produce and less than 1% of the coffee is currently being exported. Due to the level of development, Thailand has a higher cost of production than its neighbors and coffee from Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are being smuggled in, threatening the livelihood of Thai farmers. In order to compete, farmers realize they will have to focus on producing high quality specialty coffee.