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Asia: Myanmar (Burma)
Coffee from Myanmar is not seen often in the US marketplace. In fact after the one offering we had from 2000, we haven't see in since! Maybe with the recent political changes it will reappear. The region has produced Robusta type low-grade coffee for a while, but arabica has only been offered for the past 2 years that I am aware of. We offer it because it is unique, has great body, and is very nice in darker roasts. The preparation is on par with Brazilian dry-processed Specialty coffees, but Myanmar doesn't really qualify as a Specialty coffee yet in my opinion ...partly because we just don't know much about subregional distinctions from Myanmar coffees ...And it is just too early to tell what cup quality this origin will be capable of producing.
Sadly, Myanmar has been under fairly authoritarian rule until recently. There were great civil rights questions looming in relation to the military powers and the ruling elite. One might assume that consuming products from Myanmar might prolong the despotic rule, and in some cases this might be true. But this was the same case in Timor, where money from the organic coop directly aided the coffee farmers and circumvented the occupying Indonesian powers. The coffee we purchase from Myanmar also comes from a farmer cooperative called Golden Trangle, which (as in East Timor) was started with US AID grant money.
Our Unroasted Myanmar Coffee Offerings:
We have been out of this coffee for some time ... and there have been no samples available for quite a while. It was not really a "Specialty Coffee", just a very plain cup (79.5 is the lowest score I think we have ever had on a coffee we sold!)... but an interesting origin to stock. Nonetheless, I wanted to leave the review up for your reference. -Tom
A Related Topic:
Coffee from Nepal: I have cupped samples of Nepalese (sp?) coffee lately. It is supposued to be wet-processed but really cups like a rustic dry-processed or perhaps a Sumatra semi-washed. It is funky stuff, but lacks the character of Sumatra Mandheling DP and or Sulwesi/Celebes DP and has no brightness in the cup. I found it extremely one dimensional. So in the near future, you won't see any coffee from Nepal here. It is called Himalayan coffee, Nepal coffee. Here is the article from the USAID site about this coffee: U.S. Specialty Coffee Importer Buys Nepali Product In Nepal, USAID helped foster a promising public-private alliance in the specialty coffee sector. USAID's initial investment of $0.5 million over two years has leveraged more than $1 million in resources and services from other members of the alliance. Nepal's unique climate and terrain, together with the pre-existing suitable Arabic coffee trees, produce a very high quality coffee. USAID has brought together various private firms, quasi-government boards and other donor-funded projects in Nepal with a U.S. importer of specialty coffee. The U.S.-based Holland Coffee Group is a major buyer of specialty coffee around the world, with clients that include Starbucks. The Holland Coffee Group is so convinced of Nepali coffee's potential in the specialty area that it has promised to buy all coffee processed under specific requirements for the next five years at premium prices. The equipment used for processing is low-tech, made with readily available materials modified for Nepali conditions. However, the more difficult task in quality assurance is making sure that all proper steps, from plucking to packaging are carefully adhered to. As a high-end product, even the smallest contamination would have serious implications for the reputation of Nepali coffee in the specialty market. George Willekes, President of the Holland Coffee Group, was in Nepal recently to demonstrate a special semi-washed processing technique and to conduct a training of trainers workshop of proper processing practices. Coffee is grown throughout the country's hill regions, including in the conflict-affected western and mid-western regions. At 40 tons, current production of processed beans in Nepal is very low. (To cite a comparison, Holland Coffee Group exports 50,000 tons globally.) Most of Nepal's coffee is produced by small farmers who plant coffee on a portion of their land. Given the huge potential of Nepali coffee in the specialty global coffee market, there are real possibilities that this activity could increase incomes significantly in rural areas.
Coffee from China: We get some interestig emails about Chinese Yunan Arabica coffee. I have cupped various types of commercial grade Yunan coffees. You can pretty much order this coffee in whatever style you want - Chinese Arabica, Central American wet-processed style ... Chinese Arabica, Brazilian dry-processed style ... Chinese Arabica, Sumatran semi wet--processed style. It is ridiculous. The fact is, I have not found much of any flavor in these commercial coffees. It is suited toward the mass "industrial coffee market" meaning the R&G (roasted, ground) coffee market and insitutional roasting. I know that every new origin piques the interest, but that doesn't make it good. Recently I received a sample of Yunan coffee that was markedly better, a real specialty-level coffee. It was fromthe ManLao River Plantation, that ranges from 3500-4500 feet with the coffee coming from smallholder farms. The cup was clean, bright and had good sweetness, and was well processed. It was not a fresh new crop sample so it scored 84, but it could be an 85-86 point coffee in season. Just to note that Yunan can produce good coffee, and somethimes it's simply a matter of what you are exposed to that colors those perceptions about specific coffee origins.
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