In 2016, Kaldi’s Coffee was honored to be asked to participate in the first ever organized coffee buying trip to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Located in southeast Asia, Myanmar borders India, China, and Thailand.
Although Myanmar contains some prime growing regions, they have remained largely unknown to the specialty coffee industry. Controlled by successive military governments over the last 60 years, their industry was limited by self-imposed isolation. Over the last five years, Myanmar has transitioned towards democracy and open trade, and now their government is heavily interested in growing their burgeoning coffee industry and capitalizing on their potential for high quality Arabica coffee.
This trip carried extra meaning and significance to us. Coffee and people are our passion and this origin visit fully encompasses both. Three members of our production team came to us from Burma as political refugees starting in 2007. We have had the privilege and honor to work with them over the years, and this trip provides us with a chance to take it full circle. Their hard work has helped to make Kaldi’s what it is, and now Kaldi’s has been given the chance to give back to Myanmar.
Tyler Zimmer, our Green Coffee Buyer visited Mandalay and a few larger estates about 50 miles outside Mandalay in Pyin Oo Lwin. Here, he met with producers and evaluated the year’s harvest. He spent two total days visiting this area, before travelling five hours to Ywangan, in Shan State, where much of the coffee is produced by smallholders. He met with local coffee officials and cupped many coffees from the region.
Thanks to our relationship with the Myanmarese refugees, we have learned so much about Myanmar and their culture. When we found out USAID was introducing a pilot project on the coffee sector in Myanmar, we jumped at the chance to be involved. We are one of the first specialty coffee companies in the world to import coffee from Myanmar and are excited to introduce you to this year’s harvest.
We are featuring coffee from two villages from the Ywangan area in Southern Shan state, Pyin Oo Lwin and Tet Kone. These villages are truly amazing places with passionate people. This is what excites us about this new coffee origin: the drive and spirit of the communities and villages is astounding.
Ywangan is home to many smallholders. In 2013, there was a new emphasis brought to the area to try to increase quality and, in return, receive a better price for their coffee. Traditionally, much of the coffee in the area was either consumed domestically or in China, neither bringing very high prices. Coffee has been grown in this area since 1890, after it was introduced by English Missionaries. There are dozens of small villages in the area and the Myanmar Coffee Association has begun to work with about 30 of them, representing over 400 smallholder farmers.
The third coffee we are featuring from Myanmar is also from the Green Land Farm Plantation, and is also a washed coffee, but the variety is Costa Rica. Like the SL-34, Costa Rica was brought to Myanmar from another country (we’ll let you guess which one).
This type of experimentation is something we love to see at the origin level. The more varieties grown at origin, the better chance coffee has at prospering and thriving.
“What’s cool about Green Land Farm is they take varieties from Costa Rica and Kenya, things people are used to, but because of the environment it’s grown in the flavor profile is completely different,” says David Hall, one of our coffee Roasters.
This is our first year buying from Green Land Farm, and we’re excited that we have two different varieties to taste from them. It’s amazing to see how many differences there are in coffee, especially when you have two different varieties grown and processed in the same way.
To read more about our time in Myanmar, click here.