If you're looking for coffee from interesting and unusual places, you can't get much better than this. Taste is always the first criteria for us, but we consider the story and background to be just as important.
Myanmar is a troubled country with unrest and atrocities widely reported. The large population of farmers (some 70,000) live in remote and inaccessible areas of the country and make their living from poppy farming. The latex obtained from the poppy plant is dried to produce opium. The average income of a household here is less than $3,000 USD a year, which is just enough to make ends meet. However, poppy farming is illegal and the risk is high: regular campaigns to destroy poppy fields are conducted by the police and farmers can be prosecuted.
Indeed, Fronttier Myanmar reports that "many opium farmers have few alternatives, due to conflict and insecurity, lack of infrastructure, and the terrain and climactic conditions. But on the slopes of mountainous Shan State, you can cultivate surprisingly high-quality coffee. Such is the quality that its sale could generate income similar to that of opium cultivation, exciting development agencies that see it as a viable alternative crop."
Value Chains for Rural Development
The USAID-funded Value Chains for Rural Development (VCRD) project has helped transform coffee production in Myanmar by helping farmers shift from unprofitable commercial coffee to high-value specialty coffee – receiving prices that are up to 37.5 percent higher for cherries and 2 to 4 times higher for green beans. Since the initial pilot with four communities in Ywangan, Shan State has been established as an origin for some of the most diverse and unique specialty coffees in the world, the number of farmers and communities engaged in specialty coffee production has steadily climbed. In parallel, “cupping scores” for each new harvest have continued to rise to ever higher rungs of the coffee quality ladder. This transformation has been guided by specialty green bean buyers and enthusiastically embraced by Myanmar smallholders, estates, and processors.
Green Land & Mandalay Coffee Group
The Mandalay Coffee Group was set up as part of this project, specifically focusing on improving processing methods and lot traceability. The exporter helps to provide access to international markets, which, with improved quality will offer a financially sustainable and long term alternative to opium farming. U Sai Wan, the owner of Green Land Estate has become one of the country’s first Q-graders and is now producing great coffee like this one.