Myanmar (Burma) is very new to the specialty coffee industry, with the first exportation of speciality coffee beginning in 2016. The quality of these coffees is very high and we're excited to finally be able to offer a Myanmar single origin.
The country has been troubled recently, with the UN calling the government's treatment of the Rohingya people in the western state of Rakhine ongoing genocide. Indochina Coffee are confident that their direct-trade genuinely benefits the farmers they work with. This area of Myanmar used to be mostly opium, switching to specialty coffee is better for the environment and the long-term livelihoods of the farmers.
Credit: Indochina Coffee
We spoke to Christian from Indochina Coffee about what makes coffee from Myanmar stand out amongst other Asian countries.
What would you say is different about Myanmar's coffee?
Compared to many other producing countries in Southeast Asia, Myanmar produces wonderfully bright and clean washed coffees with none of the woody or dull notes that are so often associated with the region’s offerings. Our Ywangan washed coffees have great and well-balanced acidity, in particular.
High density shade is provided by silver oak, macadamia and indigenous fruit trees. This contributes to reforestation in an area scarred by traditional slash and burn opium agriculture, as well as improvements in final cupping notes/scores.
Benefiting from sustained investment from the Winrock Foundation and CQI over the past few years, farmers in Myanmar have really grabbed the opportunity to showcase the potential of the unique terroir, with the result that their coffees have improved markedly over the past two seasons. I’d say their consistent processing techniques really show in the final cup, with some floral notes, citrus and black tea.
What do you love about Myanmar?
Myanmar is a truly magical country, blessed with perfect land and climate for growing coffee. While beset by complicated and longstanding political difficulties, ethnic strife, corruption and a government still very much dominated by its military, its people are nevertheless nothing short of inspirational. The vast majority of our coffees come from Southern Shan State, populated by a bewildering mix of minority hill tribes far from the control of any government – many have only recently switched from growing opium to growing coffee, and we’re committed to helping them continue growing and selling this new choice of crop for many years to come! I guess the answer is that we love the people most of all. Genuinely humbling to be working with them and bringing their fantastic coffee to a UK audience.
Where do you think Myanmar's coffee will be in 5 years?
We’re not interested in Myanmar being a ‘flash in the pan’ new origin country for coffee, suddenly popular one year for its supposed exoticism and then duly ignored in favour of the traditional growing regions of the Americas and Africa. While we’ve seen some importers moving on to other countries already, we’re committed to continuing to work with the farmers and producers in Myanmar for the long term.
Coffees from Myanmar have already shown that they’re capable of reaching 90 in terms of cupping scores. But while a micro-lot sorted by hand, producing a few bags a year reaching these scores is of course an amazing achievement, we want to see not just continued improvement in the quality of the coffees being produced but great 85+ scoring coffees being consistently and sustainably produced year after year – at volume. We think this is definitely within the grasp of farmers and producers in Myanmar and that’s what we’d like to see as normal in five years’ time. Great coffees which committed roasters and coffee drinkers alike will come back to every season, not just a guest filter as something interesting but a firm addition to any menu in coffee shops in London and across the UK and Europe. That way, our trade can genuinely benefit the communities that we work with in Myanmar.
Try it for yourself and grab a bag of Ywangan, Myanmar coffee - while stocks last!