Located in the Northern Uplands of Laos, Xieng Khouang Province is a land rich in natural resources and ethnic diversity. The Keoset cluster of villages is home to 200 families who have been growing coffee for more than a decade.
The specific climate and geography of Xieng Khouang provides suitable conditions to produce high-quality Arabica coffee. The farmers of Keoset have planted their coffee in natural forest at elevations between 1,100 and 1,400 metres. Recently they have been cooperating with the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service to improve both the quality and quantity of their coffee beans.
The coffee is cultivated without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Cherries are harvested between November and February and turned into green beans using both washed and natural processing techniques. The entire process is respectful of local culture, biodiversity and people’s health.
After roasting by one of the companies paying a premium price for beans from Keoset (see our Partners page for details), this quality coffee is ready for consumers who like to drink something special!
How do you like your coffee… fruity or nutty? Or maybe with a hint of chocolate?
When you buy really good coffee beans they usually have a description of the flavours on the packet. Or maybe you have seen the flavour notes on a chalkboard at your favourite cafe. In this example, the flavours of naturally processed beans from Keoset in Xieng Khouang are described as “Jasmin tea, pear, brown sugar, chocolate”.
Those flavors are a result of many factors: the variety of coffee, where it was planted, and how it was processed. Changing the processing technique will change the flavor, and both of the main buyers for Keoset coffee have been experimenting with new processing methods in recent months.
You can find out more by clicking on the pictures below and visiting the Facebook pages of Mueang Xieng Coffee and Comma Coffee.
In cooperation with the LURAS project, Comma Coffee has been testing new processing techniques with the coffee farmers in Keoset. The company has guaranteed the price they will pay for the beans, which means there is no loss for the farmers if the experiments fail. Samples from these experiments show that the farmers are able to produce exciting new flavours in their beans. If they are also able to maintain a consistent high quality they can be sure of a good income in the future.
The farmers of Tan Tai village recently had a visit from the manager of Aromdee who tasted their products back in October during the celebration of International Coffee Day. Aromdee is a social enterprise based in Luang Prabang with a strong connection to Souphanouvong University and rural communities in the North of Laos.
As a result of the meeting in Tan Tai, facilitated by the LURAS project, Aromdee agreed to make a first purchase of one tonne of coffee, thereby joining Muang Xieng Coffee and Comma Coffee as private sector partners in the development of Keoset Coffee.
Keoset coffee and Phousan tea attracted the attention of some Very Important People during the 8th Meeting of the Xieng Khouang Provincial Party Committee earlier this month.
Among those tasting the coffee and taking an interest in the guidelines produced by Keoset farmers in collaboration with the LURAS project were Her Excellency Pany Yathotou, President of the National Assembly, Mr. Bounchan Sivongphan, Provincial Governor, Mr. Bounhome Thedthany, Director of the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office, Mr. Thongsavath Mangnomek, Director of the Provincial Industry and Commerce Department, Mrs. Khamsay Thipdala, Acting Head of Lao Women Union… and many other local officials.
The Lao Coffee Notebook is now available! Produced by LURAS in cooperation with Comma Coffee, this unique notebook is packed with information about coffee production, processing roasting and brewing, including a map, statistics and a Lao-English wordlist, all of which has been beautifully illustrated by Tina at Helvetas. Here is a selection of the pages …
You can get your copy of the notebook for free from the LURAS-Keoset booth at International Coffee Day or at Comma Coffee. These files can also be used for educational purposes in your own organisation or project, but please credit LURAS & Comma.
International Coffee Day will be celebrated 2nd-4th October in Luang Prabang. The Kesoset Coffee Farmers will have a booth at the Heuan Chan Heritage House… so come along and meet them! Details of the event are here and here.
We are promoting the importance of Partnerships for Sustainability. At the booth in Luang Prabang you will be able to meet with coffee farmers, discuss with staff of the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service, and discover the coffee products sold by our commercial partners, Comma Coffee and Mueang Xieng Coffee.
There will also be a free gift for you to take away… come a see what it is!
The farmers in Keoset were fortunate that their coffee crop was harvested, processed and sold before the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that the lockdown has been lifted, it’s a good time to share experience.
In mid July 2020, coffee farmers and buyers from across the North of Laos came together in Phonsavanh, Xieng Khouang Province, for a three-day meeting organised by the RECoSeL, a French-funded project that is supporting the “Reinforcement and Expansion of Coffee Sector in Laos”.
Coffee farmers from Ban Tantai, one of the most productive villages in the Keoset area, delivered 500 kg of green bean to their buyer in Vientiane today. Mr Xay, who is responsible for quality control in his production group, travelled with LURAS advisers to the capital, where Comma Coffee examined the beans and roasted samples for a taste test. After some serious discussion, Mr Xay (wearing a blue shirt in the photos below) was able to enjoy a refreshing glass of nitro coffee at the Comma Reading Room.
The best quality Arabica coffee is grown at higher altitudes, above 1,000 metres, but this makes the crop vulnerable to cold temperatures. Coffee bushes are easily damaged or killed by frost, resulting in a loss of income for farmers.
Climate change is increasing the risk of extreme weather, and coffee farmers in the North of Laos have experienced frost twice in the past 5 years. The amount of damage has been different from place to place, depending on where the crop is planted. The experience in Keoset shows that coffee planted in natural forest is less vulnerable that coffee planted in the open.
This video in Lao language has more information from the farmers who were affected in December 2019.