A busy year with good results

Keoset coffee farmers have been very busy!  In recent months, they have received many VIP guests, including the Vice President of the National Assembly, Governor of Xieng Khouang Province, Ambassadors from Europe, and farmers from other parts of Laos. Everybody was happy to learn about the achievements in the villages of Pieng, Tantai, and new production areas such as Ban Om. 

The latest harvest is coming to an end and – once again – the quality of the beans has been very high. Coffee from Ban Om received an amazing cupping score of 84.81 from international judges (CQI) at the latest Lao Green Coffee Competition, while the beans from Ban Tantai – which won first prize for best washed Arabica last year – scored 84.22.  These results show that Keoset farmers are producing a consistent quality of beans, an important consideration for commercial partners.

Farmers and buyers know there is still room for improvement. They will continue working together with the LURAS project to control insect pests, manage moisture content and strengthen solidarity among the members of the producer groups.  These efforts will ensure that the beans from Keoset continue to meet international standards for Specialty Coffee and achieve premium prices for the farmers. 

Congratulations! Keoset coffee farmers win 1st prize

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.

Coffee’s Next Generation

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:

For more information about International Coffee Day, with stories from around the world, visit this page: https://www.internationalcoffeeday.org/

Introducing the Keoset Drying House

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.

Experimenting with flavour

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.

Keoset welcomes Aromdee!

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.

VIPs deserve the best refreshments!

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.

Young coffee farmer is national success story

Click this page to read the full story

The Vientiane Times today published a full page story about coffee farming in Keoset, focussing on the experience of Ms Seaumkham Lertmanyphan.

The newspaper reported that Seaukham, who is 26 years old, “harvested her first crop two years ago, obtaining a yield of two tonnes which she sold for over 10 million kip”.

Seaukham recently served coffee to more than 100 visitors during International Coffee Day in Luang Prabang, having previously received barista training from Comma Coffee.

Everything you wanted to know about coffee… in English!

More than 1,000 copies of the The Lao Coffee Notebook were distributed in Luang Prabang and Vientiane during the events held to celebrate International Coffee Day this month.

LURAS and Comma, the producers of the Notebook, received many requests for an English version… and here it is! Click on the cover to download the pdf file (5 MB)

Everything you wanted to know about coffee… in Lao!

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 download the complete notebook by clicking on this link: Lao Coffee Notebook, Lao version, pdf 7.8MB

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.