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.
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.
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!
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 coffee farmers of Keoset have chosen a new logo for their products. The new design has similar elements as before, showing the hands of farmers working together to produce coffee. However, the logo now has a simpler design, bolder colours and the initials ‘KS’ in the branches of the tree, making it easier to recognise when used on packaging.
Maintaining a strong identity for Keoset coffee is one way to ensure that farmers continue to receive a premium price for their product. This is the thinking behind ‘single-origin coffee’, similar to the marketing of wine, or other drinks and foods that come from a specific geographic area and have characteristic qualities.
Keoset coffee comes from a cluster of 5 villages in Khoun District of Xieng Khouang Province. The coffee is an Arabica cultivar known as Catimor, grown under natural forest at an elevation of between 1,100 and 1,400 metres. When processed and roasted, the coffee reaches Specialty Grade A according to SCA standards. Quality experts have described the wash-processed beans as having a bright acidity, clean body and nutty flavor with notes of jasmine tea. The natural-processed coffee has more complex flavor notes including jasmine tea, pear, brown sugar and chocolate.