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!
Farmers from Xieng Khouang Province are celebrating after their coffee beans achieved an excellent result in a national competition. At the award ceremony for the “Taste of Laos” green coffee competition, held in Vientiane last week, the producers from Tan Tai village won first prize for the best washed arabica beans. The cupping score given by an international panel from the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) was 84.29, confirming that beans from the Keoset cluster of villages easily meets the standards for Specialty Coffee.
The award was presented by the Director General of the Lao Department of Agriculture, Mr Bounchanh Kombounyasith, in the presence of Ambassadors from the EU and USA, the President of the Lao Coffee Association, and a number of other VIPs.
The beans from Tan Tai were submitted to the competition by Comma Coffee, an independent coffee roaster and chain of cafes that has been cooperating with the LURAS project for the past 4 years to improve the quality of coffee in the Keoset Community. This partnership between producers, the private sector and a development project has been a key factor in bringing high quality coffee to the market. Together, the partners have worked to improve processing techniques and the grading of beans, and used the services of experts known as Q-graders to assess the results.
As part of this year’s competition, which involved companies and farmer groups from across Laos, the Q-graders from CQI provided ‘favor notes’ to describe each sample they tested. They reported that the taste of coffee from Tan Tai is like ‘dried plum, caramel, roasted nuts, chocolate, honey like, citrusy, creamy, and sweet & juicy’.
Lao consumers can now drink and purchase the prize-winning coffee at Comma outlets in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. A benefit-sharing scheme means that part of the profits goes back to community development activities in the villages where the coffee is produced.
The theme for International Coffee Day 2021 is ‘Coffee’s Next Generation’. To celebrate this event we have a series of short videos that put the spotlight on the roles that Lao youth are playing in the coffee sector. From farmers to baristas and micro entrepreneurs, you will find young Lao women and men are learning new skills and earning an income throughout the sector. They also made these videos and produced the animation below!
And here is a reminder of the Young Farmers Forum organised by LURAS in 2019, hosted by the Keoset Coffee producers:
High quality coffee needs careful drying. That’s not always easy in the mountains of Northern Laos. Traditional drying beds made from bamboo are cheap to make but difficult to keep clean, and they need to be be rebuilt every year.
In collaboration with Keoset coffee producers, staff of the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) have designed and tested a new design of drying house. The Kesoet drying house is made with a steel frame that improves hygiene and provides better control of temperature and moisture.
After testing and adjustments over the past 18 months, the Keoset drying house will be used by coffee farmers in 11 villages in three Districts during the forthcoming harvest season. The new drying houses have been produced locally in Xieng Khouang Province.
Each house costs approximately $500 and provides 16 square metres of drying area. They are easily dismantled for transportation and storage, and can also be used for drying other products.
Please watch the video for an introduction to the new dying house. Technical details can be downloaded by clicking this illustration.
Please contact the LURAS team in Xieng Khouang if you need more information.
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.
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!