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International Cooperation for the Development of a Sustainable Coffee Economy
Introduction to the First Regional Round-table on Sustainable Organic and Specialty Coffee, Production Processing and Marketing
The Factors of Quality in Green Coffee Beans
Coffee Production Status and Potential of Organic Arabica Coffee in Thailand
Specialty/Organic Coffee Industry of East Timor
The Coffee Industry of Lao and Prospects for a Speciality/Organic Coffee Industry
Postharvest Processing and Quality Assurance for Speciality/Organic Coffee Products
Present Status of Coffee Industry in Vietnam and Opportunities for Specialty/Organic coffee Production
Coffee Production, Processing and Marketing in Myanmar Experience and Prospects for Organic/Specialty Coffee
Coffee Cultivation and Production in Myanmar
Organic/Specialty Coffee-the Indonesian Experience
Selecting and Screening Arabica Coffee for Rust Resistance

International Cooperation for the Development of a Sustainable Coffee Economy

by Pablo Dubois, Head of Operations, International Coffee Organization (ICO), London, UK

The International Coffee Organization (ICO) is an intergovernmental organization consisting of 63 coffee exporting and importing countries, of which the exporting Members account for over 95% of world exports and the importing Members over 65% of world imports. It was established by the United Nations in 1962. Coffee is of great economic importance to developing countries, including many LDCs, and of considerable social importance in consuming countries. Annual export earnings from coffee usually exceed US$10 billion and coffee can account in some LDCs for over three quarters of total export earnings. It is estimated that some 100 million people are largely dependent on coffee for their livelihoods.

Because coffee is a broad-leaved perennial plant, its cultivation, particularly compared with many alternative economic activities, is quite beneficial to the environment. Apart from generating oxygen and contributing to soil fixation, coffee is frequently grown under shade trees, which permits the preservation of a high degree of biodiversity in the growing environment.

The ICO acts to administer the provisions of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA). The latest agreement, ICA 2001, specifically encourages Members to develop a sustainable coffee economy and to bear in mind the principles contained in Agenda 21. To this effect the ICO has published studies on sustainable coffee production and organic coffee and organized appropriate seminars and Round Tables to clarify the issues involved. It endeavours to take into account sustainable practices when sponsoring coffee development projects, which are undertaken largely in cooperation with the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC).

The ICO has also concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN Environment Programme to conduct a number of studies on coffee and sustainability. When considering these issues it is important that the concept of economic sustainability is also addressed since certain environmentally optimal practices are contingent on a healthy coffee economy.

In addition, the presentation addresses the following issues:

In general, the Specialty/Gourmet sector is larger, and therefore more immediately rewarding than the market for Organic coffee, where care must be taken to proceed from a position of comparative advantage and a clear view of certification and other costs.

Introduction to the First Regional Round-table on Sustainable Organic and Specialty Coffee, Production Processing and Marketing

By K.R. Chapman*, Plant Production Officer (Industrial Crops), FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand
* The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author’s alone and do not imply any opinion whatsoever on the part of the FAO/UN
Why this meeting?

Coffee in dollar terms is the second most traded product in the world after petroleum. Coffee throughout the world, including the Asia/Pacific region, produces an income for millions of small farmers and their families, who are often totally dependent on the crop for their livelihood. World coffee prices are at their lowest levels for many years and the very existence of many small farmers is at stake. Such prices represent a real threat to the industry and especially to those producing high quality coffee, which cost more to produce (Lingle, 2000).

In various countries, high input coffee production is causing soil degradation, water table pollution, water table lowering and environmental contamination in some parts of Asia/Pacific.

Coffee can be produced in many different ways ranging from very low input shade or forest grown coffee to high input sun grown coffee. Some ways in which coffee is produced can be sustained for very long periods of time, while some cannot. The reasons are complex, but involve all aspects of the production, processing, post harvest management and marketing of the product in any given farming system.

To gain some idea of the importance of Sustainable coffee production throughout the world, when I entered the words ‘sustainable coffee’ into an internet search engine, the search of the Worldwide Web came up with nearly 32,600 references on the topic! The result speaks for itself.

In fact we know there are ways and practices, which will make a difference to the quality of life of small coffee producers, while ensuring that their farming systems and incomes are both improved and sustained. We need to make countries of our region aware of these interventions and explore and derive approaches to extending these practices to small farmers in the Asia/Pacific region. In short ‘Make it Happen.’

Some definitions

Sustainable agriculture and Sustainable coffee

Again there are almost as many definitions of sustainable agriculture, Sustainable coffee production and sustainable agricultural development as there are references on the Worldwide Web. However, being reared on a small farm, I favour the following philosophical definition:

"A farmer should live as though he were going to die tomorrow, but he should farm as though he was going to live forever." (Evans 1966).

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) in 1997 defined as follows: "Sustainable farming is a management-intensive method of growing crops at a profit while concurrently minimising negative impact on the environment, improving soil health, increasing biological diversity, and controlling pests. Sustainable agriculture is dependent on a whole-system approach, having as its focus the long-term health of the land."

ATTRA 1997, goes on to state that, "It is widely agreed that a truly sustainable farm system must be sustainable economically, ecologically and socially", to which I would add, "and technically feasible within a given system."

"To be economically sustainable, farms should generate sufficient equitable returns to support farm families and to provide an economic base for the surrounding community. To be ecologically sustainable, farming methods must be modeled on nature to foster energy flow, effective water and mineral cycles and viable community dynamics and to be socially sustainable, agriculture should promote the physical, spiritual, cultural and economic health of farm families and communities." (ATTRA 1997).

Finally, we should understand that sustainable agriculture is neither high nor low technology, but appropriate technology that varies considerably from farm to farm, unlike conventional approaches which tend to be prescription orientated.

Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in referring to Sustainable coffee, defines as follows: "Sustainability is growth which satisfies the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own needs." (Sosa 2000).

More particularly, The Smithsonian Group in 1998 suggested that, "Sustainable coffee is produced on a farm with high biological diversity and low chemical inputs. It conserves resources, protects the environment, produces efficiently, competes commercially and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole." The group suggested guiding principles for the development of Sustainable coffee and specific environmental and social issues, criteria for shade management, agrochemical use, pollution control and energy conservation in processing, social and economic relationships. (Greenberg 1998).

In the United States, Sustainable coffee niches are still small, for example, certified shade grown coffee sales are only US$ 3-6 million per year, while Organic coffee sales are between US$ 75-125 million per year. (Griswold 2000).

Note. Sustainable Agriculture is not exclusively organic farming. (Wilson and Tychniewicz 1995). However, others consider that Sustainable coffee should be as organic as possible. (Rhoads 1997).

Organic coffee

Organic coffee is coffee grown completely free of synthetic chemicals. The land must have been free of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers for the past three years as a pre-requisite for registration. (Rice and Ward 1996).

Burnett, 1998, states that Organic coffee is the fastest growing segment of the US$2.5 billion Specialty Coffee market, although it accounts for only about 5% of the market in the US. He points out that certified Organic coffee farmers earn 15-20% more for their beans than non-Organic coffee farmers. Also, he points out that Organic coffee is not necessarily any purer than coffee grown with pesticides as the pesticides are destroyed in the roasting process, with perhaps the exception of DDT residues, although DDT is rarely used on coffee today. However, buying Organic coffee supports a system that is improving the lives and health of poor farmers and the environment and helping to provide more equity for such people. Organic coffee promotes the use of many sustainable agricultural practices that conserve and protect and often improve the environment.

Organic coffee has been growing at a rate of 25% per year since 1993 (Griswold 2000), and in the United States, sales are far greater than for Sustainable or Fair Trade coffee. Organic coffee is not automatically of high cupping quality as many of us, including Burnett, 1998, have noted.

Organic coffee certification is an expensive process and annual inspections may cost tens of thousands of dollars for coffee cooperatives. (Rice and Ward 1996). Organic coffee may also be more labour intensive, depending on the farming system used for its production. (Lane 1994). This is an issue we hope to explore more in the Round-table meeting, along with procedures required.

There is considerable debate between various players on what is Sustainable coffee and what is Organic coffee. Adam Tietelbaum from Adam’s Coffee and members of The Organic Coffee Association (ORCA) established in 1998/99 in the US, maintain that with regard to coffee, "If it is not organic it is not sustainable." This view is not necessarily shared by others such as the Sustainable Coffee Coalition, which describe Sustainable coffees as those coffees grown with low or preferably no synthetic chemical inputs into the system. Tietelbaum 1997 indicated that the above mission statement did not indicate which petro-chemicals qualify as low toxicity and can be used on coffee, and that a whole new certification bureaucracy, with all its associated costs, is needed to certify Sustainable coffee.

We expect these issues will be debated at length for the Round-table meeting, along with implications for introduction and certification.

Specialty coffee

"Specialty Coffee is Quality Coffee....where effort and consciousness is given at every step to bring the potential for quality into the cup." (SCAA 2000).

It begins with the variety and growing location of the tree, and proceeds through the manner of its harvesting, how the bean is roasted and the skill with which it is brewed. The Specialty Coffee industry comprises those people and businesses that have dedicated their lives to quality coffee. In the United States their trade association is the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). The Mission of the SCAA is to serve the Specialty Coffee industry through the development and dissemination of information that fosters coffee excellence within the trade.

SCAA membership totals over 2,500 companies and individuals dedicated to Specialty Coffee. The SCAA has become the focal point for the development of standards for coffee quality.

Ted Lingle, of SCAA has produced The Coffee Cupper's Handbook, and The Coffee Brewing Handbook, both books considered to be mandatory references for the trade. The SCAA has also published the Green Coffee Classification System, as well as developed such products as the Roast Color Classification System - the industry's first definitive method for objectively identifying roast development, and the Brew Master's Analysis Kit.

Many companies, retailers, producers, exporters, associations throughout the world are involved in the Specialty Coffee industry which is estimated to have a market value of US$ 2.5 billion per year. (Burnett 1998).

Specialty Coffee does not imply that it is Organic or Sustainable coffee-it may be either or both.

Specialty Coffee may or may not be Gourmet coffee, depending on how we define the two terms. Sometimes the latter may be used loosely to cover all expresso beverages and their derivatives in general, as well as true premium whole bean varieties. (Nelson 2000).

Ted Lingle (2000), Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, considers that the underlying issues of Specialty coffee have to do with value versus specialty or uniqueness. He considers that many coffees have good values, but not all are special. The Specialty coffees that are truly unique are becoming harder to find. The Specialty coffee industry was created on the basis of uniqueness; he considers the industry has to go back to this uniqueness and re-focus on the bean as the wine industry does on the specific grape.

Fine Gourmet coffees, as defined by the International Coffee Organisation, are being sought in a major project, ‘Development of Gourmet Coffee Potential’ in Brazil, Burundi, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Uganda in a US$ 1.4 million project funded largely by CFC (Common Fund for Commodities). For example in Brazil, fine gourmet coffees were selected by competition in October 1999 and sold by innovative Internet Auction in December 1999. Premiums realised for these Gourmet coffees were 60% above normal good quality Brazilian Arabicas. These gourmet coffees are unique and thus are true Specialty coffees.

Some key issues and where do we want to go?

Fair trade coffee

Some wholesalers, grinders and merchants are involved in Fair Trade coffee. Fair trade means that the bottom price per pound is set to insure farmers an income from growing coffee. If the coffee market in New York goes below that price, the farmers growing Fair Trade coffee will still get that floor price. If coffee goes above the set price, the farmer will get the higher price. So farmers are protected on the lower end of the market. Coffees may then be retailed as Fair Trade Coffee and certified with Transfair USA. (Griswold 2000).

In the United States, Cooperative Coffees Inc. has been formed to purchase green coffee from and in partnership with small-scale cooperatives. They use the Fair Trade price described above. Also, coffee importers provide a certain amount of credit to farmers against future sales, helping farmers stay out of debt to local coffee ‘coyotes’ or ‘loan sharks’ who charge unreasonable interest rates. Importers and roasters agree to develop direct long-term trade relationships with producer groups, thereby cutting out the middlemen and bringing greater commercial stability to the extremely unstable coffee commodities market. These cooperatives must be farmer owned, democratically managed and must demonstrate their ability to produce and deliver exceptional Specialty coffee. For example, Heine Brothers Coffee (2000) buys coffee from three cooperatives in Guatemala, two in Mexico, one in Nicaragua, two in Costa Rica, one in Sumatra and one in Cameroon.

Quality improvement and specialty/gourmet Organic coffee

As we have seen above, Specialty and Gourmet coffee is a growing market for true high quality coffee. In April 2000, the Sustainable Coffee Association of America signed a special agreement with the United States Agency for Development (USAID) to ensure that future development in coffee-growing regions focus on producing higher-quality Specialty coffees because creating better tasting Specialty coffee is the best means of increasing farmer incomes. (Griswold 2000). Thus future plantings should be of very high quality coffees planted in the best environments to produce quality coffees.

The challenge really is turn coffee from being a commodity into a higher priced quality product such as the wine grape is to wine. The paradox is that coffee is a product for which the price paid to the farmer is at the level of a lowly commodity, while the end-product often sells as a luxury item.

The choice to move to the next step of Organic coffee production has to weigh costs against receipts and ensure that quality goes hand in hand with organic production. As mentioned previously the Organic coffee industry is expanding at a very rapid rate but specialty/gourmet Organic coffees are not at all prevalent in the market at the present time.


To my mind, sustainability of the production system is the key issue and is paramount to the long-term survival of the coffee industry. The coffee farming system must be sustainable economically, ecologically and socially, and technically and practically feasible. If farmers cannot achieve such goals then coffee production will not survive.

There are many different options and models of how to achieve this goal. organic farming may or may not be involved, permaculture, bio-dynamic techniques may be employed, composting and associated fruits and vegetables may be used, livestock may be involved, shade may be provided by a commercial fruit tree or a Neem tree and so on. However, in each instance, high quality coffee must be the central theme in sustainability if farmers are to improve their incomes and living standards.

How do we get there?

The ‘how’ of it all is what we are about in this Round-table meeting.

What we trust will emerge from this gathering are examples of how to produce better quality coffee, Sustainable coffee and Organic coffee, using the experience of current practitioners and the combined knowledge of the group and the coffee world.

The complete system package and ‘Making it Happen’!

Like any high quality product and its delivery to the consumer, there are many operations involved in the complete coffee system package. The operations involve production, processing, waste management, postharvest handling and management, quality control, fair price trading, shipping, sale, storage, roasting, blending and sale of the product. For success and sustainability all system components must function efficiently and serve to produce the finest and most consistent quality of product to the consumer on a regular basis over time.

Again we hope to explore many of these aspects in the meeting and emerge with a practical means of delivery of such systems in Asia/Pacific. Already there are some good examples of success and these experiences will be shared at the meeting and workshop and ways devised to replicate such successes.

As with all work with small farmers, the clear objective is to produce a range of input, output and management options that are technically and practically feasible and in the long term ensure economic, social and ecological sustainable livelihoods derived from a coffee based farming system - a Complete Coffee System Package.

The challenge is then to combine this knowledge and wisdom into a regional project to help ‘Make it Happen’ for our smallholders and the coffee economy of the Asia/Pacific region. One major task here at this Round Table meeting is to formulate the basis of such a project, based on knowledge provided and deliberations over issues, findings and recommendations in day two of this gathering.

Finally, we need your help to ‘Make it Happen!’


ATTRA. 1997. Making the Transition to Sustainable Farming. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural areas. (ATTRA).

Burnett. 1998. Mexican Coffee cooperative Seeks Better Prices, Working Conditions. Sustainable Development Reporting Project-Mexican Coffee Cooperatives.

Evans, G.E. 1966. East Anglia. In Regenerating Agriculture, by J. Pretty, 1995. Joseph Henry Press, Washington. D.C.

Greenberg, R. 1998. Criteria Working Group thought Paper on Sustainable Coffee. Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, Washington D.C.

Griswold, D. 2000. The Future of Sustainable Coffee. In Fall Coffee and Tea Handbook. Nov. 2000. The Gourmet Retailer.

Heine Brothers Coffee. 2000. The Coffee Cooperative. About Cooperative Coffees Inc. Press Release.

Lingle. 2000. The State of the Specialty Coffee Industry. In Fall Coffee and Tea Handbook. Nov. 2000. The Gourmet Retailer.

Lane, H. 1994. Coffees with Conscience. Magazine: E/The Environmental Magazine.

Nelson, R. 2000. The Consumer. In Fall Coffee and Tea Handbook. Nov. 2000. The Gourmet Retailer.

Rhoads, D.1997. From First Sustainable Coffee Conference to Coffee Cooperative.

Rice, R.A. and Ward, J.R.1996. Coffee, Conservation and Commerce in the Western Hemisphere. In How Individuals and Institutions Can Promote Ecologically Sound Farming and Forest Management in Northern Latin America. Natural Resources Council and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, White Paper. Washington D.C.

SCAA. 2000. About Us. Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Sosa, E. 2000. Sustainable Coffee: The Road Back for Nicaragua.

Tietelbaum, A. 1997. Sustainable Coffee. Adam’s Organic Oracle No.2 Spring, 1997.

Wilson, A. and Tychniewichz, A. 1995. Agriculture and Sustainable development: Policy Analysis on the Great Plains. Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development. pp. 108.

The Factors of Quality in Green Coffee Beans

by Dr Ernesto Illy, illycaffe s.p.a. via Flavia 110, l 34147 Trieste, Italy

This paper examines the factors of quality in the green coffee beans and ways in which the quality of coffee can be improved.


Coffee quality begins with the plant's DNA or genetic make-up and the genes that generate the chemical compounds that behave as aroma agents either directly or as aroma precursors to be expressed during the roasting process. When it comes to selecting the cultivar to be planted, cup quality must be the first priority. Only after this should agronomic characters and possible pest and disease resistance be considered as appropriate traits. For example, Catimor and other Robusta hybrids, even with good disease/pest resistance, often impart undesirable flavours to the cup.

Ecological niche

The environment has a strong influence on coffee quality. Altitude, daily temperature fluctuations, the amount of rain and the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil are very important. The micronutrient minerals frequently show a non-linear correlation between their concentration and cup quality.

Unfortunately, on existing plantations, neither plants nor the environment can be modified, but effort should be concentrated on the very critical harvesting and drying processes of coffee cherries, which are liable to be a major influence on the quality of the cup.

Hints for harvesting and the drying process

Harvest only ripe cherries. Carefully remove the water as dry beans should contain not more than 11% water, to avoid bacteria, moulds and Ochratoxins. At 11% water the coffee bean is enzymatically and chemically stable. Both quality and healthiness of coffee depend upon a correct drying process, which means regular, continuous drying and without any re-wetting.

The fastest elimination of water can be obtained by controlling the thickness of the bed of cherries during the drying operations (possibly way less than 10 cm), and by ceaselessly stirring the cherries to facilitate evaporation and also exposure to UV radiation, which is a powerful sterilizing agent. Removal of water is not easy and this is discussed in detail.

It is important to note that the increase of temperature in the green beans causes the oxidation of some unstable components therein, which impart a typically unpleasant woody and 'old' taste to the cup. Since the temperature should not be increased above 45°C in a hot air drying machine (to avoid the thermal degradation of the beans), the drying time cannot be squeezed, if quality is the target.

The recent development of the coffee market and the impact of quality on the value of the coffee

There have been a number of developments in the coffee market that impact on the quality and value of coffee and these are addressed in detail in the presentation.

1. There is considerable over-production in the world market for coffee. The annual increase in over-production of 3.7% is running at about twice the rate of the annual increase in consumption. Much of this over-produced coffee is of poor quality.

2. The challenge is to increase coffee quality and consumption in both coffee producing and consuming countries and reduce the amount of poor quality coffee in the market place. Promotion based on fact that in moderation, coffee is good for health should be undertaken. There is a need for more research on the healthful effects of coffee.

3. Coffee should be made pleasant to drink. Simply avoiding defects is a major step forward in this process of improving quality.

4. There is a need to dispose of poor quality coffee and coffee wastes, and develop alternative products from these-for example, detoxification uses, structural materials, antioxidant scavengers, composite boards, coffee oil.

5. Organic coffee represents only a small fraction of the world market at present. Costs of production for often low yielding organic coffee, have to be carefully weighed as the premium paid for the product may be only 12-20% more, whereas for Specialty coffee the premium may be 2-4 fold. In Brasil some organic coffee only gives 10-15 bags/ha while non-organic producers have yields of 50 bags/ha. Forest coffee produced with very low or virtually no inputs, of course is different to where organic manuring is practised.

6. The lowering of Ochratoxin residues derived from mould growth occurring during faulty drying and with re-wetting of coffee, is a very major issue for the world coffee industry. If the problems are not excluded quickly then about 7% of the total amount of coffee marketed may be rejected and this will cause a major disaster in the world coffee industry.

7. Farmers should reconsider before planting Catimor variety. It ruined the industry in Colombia and has been banned from planting in Costa Rica. Catimor has undesirable Robusta traits and poor cupping quality in most places where it has been grown. India has selected lines of Arabica with Liberica base that have very good cupping quality and rust tolerance. Other cultivars must be sought and/or developed by breeding and selection to substitute for Catimor.

8. The semi-washed processing of coffee practiced in Brasil has produced some very good cupping quality Arabica coffee.

Coffee Production Status and Potential of Organic Arabica Coffee in Thailand

By Pongsak Angkasith, Chiangmai University, Thailand

Coffee in Thailand is a major income earner for the country. Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) in grown mainly the south where is about 80,000 tons are produced annually. Only 500 tons of Arabica coffee (Coffea Arabica) is produced in the north. Present cultivating techniques are focused on producing high yields. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are commonly applied to the coffee plantations.

Thailand exports 60,000 tons of Robusta coffee, while 20,000 tons is used for soluble coffee, roasted and ground coffee and canned coffee in the domestic market. Arabica coffee production is all used for roasted and ground coffee in Thailand.

Arabica coffee is mainly grown in the highlands of Northern Thailand at approximately 800 meters above mean sea level. Arabica coffee is wet processed to give high quality green bean. The Catimor cultivar is considered as rust resistant and is recommended fpr growing. Arabica coffee based provides cash income for hilltribe farmers and to reduce the problem of traditional slash and burn shifting agriculture. Both shaded and full sun coffee is grown. However, due to the policy of natural resource conservation and the limitation of land area, hilltribe farmers have to grow coffee under to sustain in the long term the natural resources in the highlands. Agro-forestry systems have been introduced for Arabica coffee. These systems utilise a growing system which involves coffee, interplanted with fruit trees and/or forest trees which can provide an appropriate additional income to farmer. Limiting the use of chemical inputs, including fertilizers and pesticides, is aimed at reducing water and soil contamination and improved ecological conditions and farmer's health. Organic coffee cultivation in the highlands, meets with such objectives and is being encouraged. Organic coffee cultivation involves:

1. no use of chemical synthesized fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotic or growth regulators;

2. the use of compost, manure, green manuring and crop rotation to improve and maintain soil fertility;

3. a balanced pest control farm eco-system, with healthy soil management, and crop diversification;

4. control of weeds using mechanical methods;

5. use of good quality, clean, un-contaminated chemical-free composting materials, and nursery seedlings from off-farm as well as on-farm.

With Organic coffee, the coffee farm has to be visited and re-evaluated annually, before certification is given. Depending on market demand for Organic coffee, there is high potential for Organic coffee production in the highlands of Thailand and Organic production methods will be mutual benefit to the farmer, the highland ecologogy and consumer. Organic coffee growing areas must be special areas, which can be strictly controlled and which follow the regulations, specified for certification. Royal Project Development Areas mostly met the requirements and regulations needed and should be able to produce best quality Organic coffee


Coffee is a significant cash crop for producing and consuming countries. Thailand is the third largest producer in Asia (after Vietnam and Indonesia). Major production is of Robusta coffee. 80000 - 85500 tons are produced annually in the Southern part of Thailand. 60 % of the Robusta production is exported and the rest is mostly used in domestic instant (soluble) coffee. Arabica coffee production in Thailand is only 800 - 850 tons per year. Arabica coffee is produced in the cooler highland areas of the Northern part of Thailand. Arabica bean is totally used in roasted and ground coffee for the home market.

Consumption demand for both instant and roasted and ground coffee is growing in Thailand. Imports of instant coffee have increased from 412 tons in 1997 to 2,270 tons in 2000. There are many coffee products of Thai and International origin on the shelves of supermarkets and stores, as well as many more modern cafés or coffee houses have been opened in the big cities of Thailand in recent years.

Table 1. Imports of instant coffee

Instant Coffee





Quantity (ton)





Value (million Baht)





Source: Office of Agricultural Economics, MOAC. 2001
The Arabica producing areas in the highlands of Thailand, at the altitude 800 to1,200 meters above mean sea level, are mostly categorized as watersheds or conservation areas. Under the National Forest Policy and Land Use Policy, many extensive agricultural activities will be limited, in such areas, together with prohibition on agricultural chemical use.

In many Arabica planting areas under the coffee promotion program of the Royal Project Foundation, it has been shown that growing Arabica coffee with forest trees gives good returns to farmers. Although farmers have less management work and less investment, they still receive some returns, and not a loss. Such diversification offsets the price fluctuations of coffee when these appropriate farming systems are introduced.

Coffee in Thailand

There are two main coffee species cultivated in Thailand, Arabica in the north and Robusta in the south. While in the world market is dominated by Arabica in Thailand the main production is derived from Robusta. Arabica production in Thailand comprises only 1% of the total with 99% of production being from Robusta.

Table 2. Green bean coffee production





World production (million tons)




Thailand production (tons)




Domestic usage Thailand (tons)




Source: Department of Internal Trade, MOC. 2001
Table 3. Coffee green beans, harvesting area, production by region and yield by region, for crop years 1995 and 1998 (Thailand)


Harvesting area (ha)

Production (tons)

Yield (kgs/ha)





















Whole Kingdom







Source: Office of Agricultural Economic, 1999
Robusta Coffee


Robusta coffee is planted in 6 provinces in the south of Thailand-Chumpon, Suratthani, Nakorn Srithammarat, Krabi, Pang Nga and Ranong covering an area of 423,947 rai with a yield of 198 kg/rai in 1997/98. Planting density is 177 trees per rai and the spacing is 3 x 3 meters. Total production for the 2000/2001 was 85,000 tons.

Domestic and International Trade

Thirty-seven percent of the green coffee production in Thailand is used for soluble (or instant) coffee, roasted and ground coffee and canned (or ready to drink) coffee. Sixty-three percent is exported both as green bean to the major importers comprising the United States, Republic of Korea, Germany, Japan and Poland, and others. Soluble coffee is mostly sold to Greece, Myanmar, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia along with other of less importance. As the larger share of coffee goes to the international market, the farmers' sale price is based on world market price, specifically the London market.

The world market share for Thai coffee is 1.58%, while Vietnam and Indonesia, the significant producers in Asian region, have shares of 7.38 and 7.16 respectively.

Table 4. Export of green coffee beans

Green Coffee





Quantity (ton)





Value (million Baht)





Source: Office of Agricultural Economics, MOAC. 2001
Table 5. Export of soluble coffee

Soluble Coffee

Jan-Aug 97

Jan-Aug 98

% of change

Quantity (ton)




Value (million Baht)




Value (million US$)




Source: Office of Agricultural Economics, MOAC. 2001.
Impacts of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asian Free Trade Zones (AFTA)

According to the WTO agreement, Thailand has to open its coffee market and adjust its tariff and tax as related to the regulations of the agreement. Also for the AFTA agreement, coffee is listed as one of the sensitive commodities, which has to reduce the import tax over the years 2001 - 2003, and the tax in the year 2010 has to be cut to 0.5%.

Arabica coffee


From 1972-1979 The Thai/UN Crop Replacement and Community Development Project was implemented as a pilot project to explore the viability of replacing opium poppy cultivation with a variety of substitute crops and alternative sources of income, combined with related community development activities. It was found that Arabica coffee is a cash crop that can be promoted to replace opium in the long run and can provide high cash incomes, not only to poppy growing farmers, but to a large number of other farmers in the highlands as well. The main reasons for this are that land and climate are suitable for coffee growing, transport and storage of coffee is relatively easy, yields are good and that there is a strong demand for good quality highland coffee. Thus Arabica coffee is very appropriate and viable as a cash crop to replace opium in the highlands of Thailand.


Coffee extension and development was conducted since 1957. Many cultivars of Arabica from different parts of the world were introduced. Firstly, the high yielding variety Caturra was introduced by the UN pilot project under the patronage of the Royal Project, but the Caturra had serious problem from leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Early research on various aspects of Arabica coffee, was conducted by the Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Highland Coffee Research and Development Center, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiang Mai University. Then in 1974 the most promising Catimor derivatives, were introduced and screened and selected lines on the basis of; compact tree size, leaf rust resistance, high yield, vigour, good bean and cup quality and drought tolerance. Though all these characteristics combined are hard to find in one variety, certain selected Catimor lines have been shown good potential both for production and market. K.Arporn's paper at this meeting elaborates on this selection process and the most promising lines.


In the early period of the Arabica extension program, the recommended spacing for planting was 2 x 2 m, which gives 400 plants per rai. The original concept on highland coffee growing was based on high levels of inputs. Coffee was grown in a pure stand, open-system without shade. With technical and marketing support from various highland development projects, about 500 tons quality Arabica beans were in the market by 1990/91.

Unfortunately the drop in coffee prices in 1990-92 had a big impact on the coffee market. Unfortunately the price drop also coincided with a lack of support from the highland development projects, and some of the coffee growers cut down their coffee trees because they couldn't get any net income from coffee during that period. Gradually the system has been changed in favour of incorporating coffee in a mixed multi-cropping system using shade trees and intercrops, based on low external inputs and sustainable production.

At present, there are three coffee cultivation systems in the highland of Thailand:

1. The pure-stand or un-shaded coffee system introduced to Thailand from Brasil where the aim is high yield.

2. The home garden or mixed cultivation especially in the backyard gardens of hilltribe, where they grow coffee with fruit trees like, peach, pear, apricot and banana etc.

3. The Agroforestry system where hilltribe people grow coffee with fruit tree and tea put into a system of intercropping. Trees used do not heavily compete with coffee, but can give shade and benefit to coffee. The shade system became the appropriate recommendation for coffee farmer because of its advantages for coffee cultivation on the highlands. Comparisons of the characteristics shaded and un-shaded systems are given in Table 6.

The shaded coffee cultivation system, mostly uses more natural inputs to produce a healthy coffee. There are many reasons why the consumer needs a clean and chemical free coffee that has positive outcome for an improved environment as well. Thus there is a high potential for Organic coffee production. In addition consumers are now demanding more and more Organic coffee and it is quickly becoming a worldwide consumer preference.

Organic coffee production needs some strict controls over both cultural methods and management and this is described later.

Table 6. Comparison of coffee cultivation system (shaded and unshaded)




Coffee quality (coffee bean and taste)



Coffee production (yield: cost ratio)



Bearing-life of the coffee tree



Inputs into Cultivation (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, chemicals)



Farm environment (microclimate, humidity and soil condition)



Management of coffee farm



Source: From experience of the author
Postharvest handling


The Wet Method is recommended for producing good quality coffee, which is favoured by the market and attracts good prices. The process including pulping, fermentation, soaking, drying, hulling and grading.

Grading system

The grading system for green Arabica bean was set in 1985, by the Marketing Committee representing relevant government agencies and multi-lateral highland development projects and is as follows:

Grade A

bean size must be not less than 5.5 millimetres and the sample must not contain more than 1.5% damaged beans, 13% broken or immature beans, 0.5% of impurities and not more than 13% moisture;

Grade X

same quality as A but beans are discoloured and stained;

Grade Y

smaller beans and same quality as A;

Grade YY

damaged and broken beans of any size.

This physical grading system is being used only as a guideline for the farmer and buyer when they have first contact, then the sample of grade mentioned will sent to the roaster to do the cup-test, and the result used to finalise price.


Price is determined in direct contact between farmer and trader or trader and project. Every year a guiding price is set by some government agencies. This agreed price is applied through the year but has no impact on real market price. The agreed price is set to protect the farmers from underpayment caused by not knowing what their product is worth. The agreed prices are for a kilogram of green coffee of the various grades mentioned above. Since 1990, most of the roasters in Bangkok have been stating the importance of cup test (quality by tasting) for the price determination of green Arabica coffee. Only the beans that have good flavour and aroma can be sold at a high price.

Figure 1. Arabica Green Bean Price during 1987-1998

Organic agriculture

Organic agriculture is a system of food production and consumption aimed at environmentally and health-concious consumers. Organic farming has the potential to provide benefits in terms of environmental protection, conservation of non-renewable resources, improved food quality, reduction in output of surplus products and the reorientation of agriculture towards areas of market demand. (Lampkin, 1994).

The growing demand for organic produce (fruits, vegetables, cereal and beverage crops) has led to the development of both international and domestic markets and xpanding from countries which have the premium markets, many developing countries are trying to tap this opportunity market.

Organic food in Thailand

As people in Thailand and around the world have become more health-conscious and concerned about the environment, the demand for organic food has risen accordingly. It is thus an opportune time to expand the production base and market for organic products from Thailand.

Thailand has already distributed organic rice and organic baby corn to the world market with a good response, and it has set further goals for Asparagus, Ginger and Sweet Banana. Presently, there is a significant world demand for Organic coffee from both the foreign importers, such as Japan, Netherlands, USA and Germany, and the Thai roasters. (HCRC, 1998).

The Department of Export Promotion and related agencies from both the public and private sectors has developed a five-year plan (1999 to 2003) to promote organic farming in Thailand. This promotion is aimed at meeting the demand of consumers and at the same time conserving the environment through reduction in the pollution of air, soil, and water.

Organic food standards

Thailand has set standards for organic food production to be in line with international standards applied in developed countries around the world. The objectives are to provide the production guidelines for a progressive improvement towards sustainability, to guide the formulation of a national inspection and certification programme for organic crops and to serve as an implementing model for agriculture certification in Thailand. It also meets the requirements of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, or IFOAM; CODEX Alimentarius; the Council of the EU Regulation, EEC Number 2092/91; and the U.S. Organic Food Production Act, or OFPA.

Organic coffee production and its potential in Thailand

Concerning Organic coffee production, there are some requirements and criteria that make the products acceptable to the consumer and which have to be strictly practiced. The requirements include (The Demeter Association Inc.):

Potential for Organic coffee production in Thailand

Considering to requirements and regulations described above, there is good potential for Organic coffee production in Thailand. Besides the suitable natural conditions, which include areas of the highlands at 800 to 1,200 m.a.s.l., with favourable climate and natural resources, Organic coffee production will benefit for environmental and natural resource development, farmers livelihoods and the highland community in general.

However, there are still some factors that have to be considered for the successful of Organic coffee production in the highlands and these include:

Potential for Organic coffee production in the Royal Project

Development area

The Royal Project Development Area consists of 36 development centers where there are agricultural development activities according to resources available in each center. With strict control and a good extension program Royal Project areas have been able to produce agricultural products of a high standard and well accepted by consumers. Arabica coffee is recognised as one of the main products that can earn income for hilltribe farmers. The Royal Project produces 40 tons of Arabica coffee annually and the quality of coffee is mostly preferred by consumer because they know the product is processed from the Arabica coffee varieties recommended for cultivation and that the production and processing techniques are strictly controlled by project personnel.

Farmers are willing to follow the recommendations of extension personnel that is why the products are of good quality. Thus, Organic coffee produced by the Royal Projects will have immediate acceptance and preference by consumers. Furthemore, both consumers and farmers know that Organic coffee will lead to a better environment and quality of life for the highland communities. Royal Project areas have a high potential to produce good quality Organic coffee and the regulation of this coffee, will be undertaken by project personnel working with the hilltribe farmers.


Angkasith, P. and Warrit, B. 1999. Highland Arabica Coffee Production. Mingmoeng Publishing Co. Ltd. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The Demeter Association, Inc. 1999. Shipping Certificate: Certificate No. 052499FC02 (Re AMSA 19153) for crop of 1998-99. Mexico.

Department of Export Promotion. 2001. Organic Food: From Seeds to the Shelf. Department of Export Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, Royal Thai Government.

Highland Coffee Research and Development Centre (HCRDC). 1998. Proceedings on the seminar "The Thai Arabica Productivity and Its Opportunity". Faculty of Agriculture, Chiang Mai University.

Lampkin, N.H. Lampkin and S. Padel. (editors) 1994. The Economics of Organic Farming: An International Perspective. CAB International.

Office of Agricultural Economics.1999. Thailand Agricultural Statistics 1997/1998. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

Op de Laak, J. 1992. Arabica Coffee Cultivation and Extension Manual for the Highlands of Northern Thailand. Highland Coffee Research and Development Centre, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Scialabba, N. 2000.Opportunities and Constraints of Organic Agriculture, A Socio-Ecological Analysis. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.

Scialabba, N. 2000. Factors Ifluencing Organic Agriculture, Policies with a Focus on Developing Countries. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.

Specialty/Organic Coffee Industry of East Timor

by Anthony Marsh, Coffee Specialist with the NCBA East Timor Coffee Project

The coffee of East Timor has a unique history. First planted by the Portuguese in 1815, the coffee industry has gone through many changes. The harsh climate and terrain, the mutant variety of coffee that has evolved in ET, even the traditions and culture of East Timorese people have all played a major role in developing the special characteristics of the coffee in East Timor.

East Timor has come into prominence due to the catastrophic events of 1999. However in other circles, East Timor has received prominence for a whole set of different reasons. Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s East Timor annually produced 5000 to 8000 tonnes of low grade, semi-washed coffee. This coffee was purchased by an Indonesian army-backed monopoly that drove down farm prices and coffee quality. In 1994 a USAID funded development program opened the door of the monopoly. The program began the establishment of coffee cooperatives and set up processing facilities to fully wash and process the East Timor coffee to enable it to reach its full quality potential. In 1999, over 2000 tonnes of the total East Timor crop of 8000 tonnes was produced as certified Organic coffee by the 17,000 strong, farmer-owned cooperative, ‘Cooperativa Café Timor’.

Establishing a cooperative of 16 regional Community Grower Groups, 435 sub-groups comprising 17,000 members has been a mammoth task. The process of developing and implementing an Organic inspection system on this scale has been an even bigger task. Individual farm maps for 22,000 farms and catchment maps showing the location of each farm were needed. Sadly much of this work was destroyed in the violence at the end of 1999 and is now in the process of being redone.

Within five years East Timor had become a major producer of certified Organic coffee, producing one quarter of its crop as certified Organic coffee. The SCAA (Speciality Coffee Association of America) map of speciality coffees of the world now shows East Timor as one of the speciality coffees of the Indonesian Archipelago.

Now, as East Timor struggles toward independence and a very uncertain future, coffee provides 90% of the export income. Its importance as the primary agribusiness in East Timor cannot be understated.

East Timor environment

East Timor is a small country occupying half the island of Timor in the Indonesian archipelago. It has a total area of 15,000 sq km., which is roughly 300km long and 50km wide, sitting at 8 to 10 degrees below the equator. East Timor has an indigenous population of 500,000.

Geographically East Timor is dominated by a mountain range running east west down its centre. This range is responsible for the 3 main climatic regions of East Timor, the dry north coast and slopes, the cooler uplands and the wetter southern slopes and coast.

The highest mountain is Mt Tatamailau at 2963 m above sea level, in the centre of the western half of East Timor. Arabica coffee grows best above 1000 m and below 1600m. 80% of East Timor’s Arabica coffee is grown in a 30km radius around Mt Tatamailau.

Unlike much of Indonesia, East Timor is not of volcanic origin. It is a mix of complex decayed rock structures, uplifted from seabed. The climate is harsh with a long dry season, where there is generally 6 months without rain.

History and development of coffee industry in East Timor

Coffee was first planted in East Timor by the Portuguese colonials in 1815. By 1860 there was reported to be a thriving coffee trade from Dili to Makasar. The Portuguese Government encouraged large coffee plantings in the early 20th Century. By 1911 large Portuguese companies had 1000ha of coffee planted in the most fertile areas of East Timor. These Companies went on to plant 7000 Ha of coffee.

A snap shot of the industry in 1936 showed coffee plantings were made up of 80% smallholders and 20% large plantations. From this time the plantation sector declined until the end of the Portuguese era in 1974, mainly due to high labour costs and fluctuating coffee prices. In contrast, the smallholder sector moved forward as farmers gradually planted more coffee. They used traditional planting systems and local seed stock, planting on sloping land and poor soils.

The Indonesian era, from 1975, saw the coffee sector become very stagnant. The Indonesian Government tried some coffee rehabilitation programs with little success. The Timorese did not accept the centrally planned programs of fertilizers and hybrid coffee planting. During this time the Indonesian Department of Agriculture estimated there was 46 000Ha of coffee in East Timor.

Coffee production through the late 70’s to the late 90’s was 5000 to 8000 tonnes per year of green bean. This was virtually all smallholder coffee. Yields were roughly 1000kg/ha of cherry equating to 150kg/ha of green bean equivalent.

Traditional culture and social factors affecting coffee production in East Timor

Smallholder coffee planting was forcibly encouraged by the colonial Portuguese Government. In 1956, Helder Lains E. Silva prepared a detailed report for the Govt of Portugal on the coffee of East Timor. Quoting from his work:

"One should note that since there was a certain amount of coercion about its (coffee) plantation, the people of Timor therefore regard it as sort of Fate or Bad Luck. Their real psychological outlook regards coffee plantation as involving the same amount of work as the other plants in the forest, namely to harvest the fruit".
The coffee of East Timor is ‘Forest Coffee’. Farmers do not treat coffee farming as a business. Coffee is something to be harvested if conditions allow with minimum inputs. Farmers view themselves as custodians of their family’s coffee land rather than active coffee farmers. Most coffee farms are handed down from generation to generation. There have been few new farms planted in the last 30 years. Most are more than 50 years old.

Even with its difficult start, coffee has now become an integral part of the upland rural agriculture in East Timor. It is not abandoned or wild and it holds a very important place in the complex farming system that exists in the upland agriculture system in East Timor. It cannot be detached from local culture and tradition. However, it is also very difficult to change the way it is grown and managed by farmers.

Food security is the prime goal of agricultural activity in East Timor. This basic requirement, along with strong animist beliefs, are the key forces in determining agricultural production. As an example, coffee pruning should be done just after coffee harvest, however this is the time for corn land preparation just before the first rains. As subsistence farmers, corn is their staple and highest priority. Numerous efforts to motivate Timorese farmers to prune their overgrown coffee trees have had little success.

Timorese farmers have traditionally had ‘self-sustaining agricultural systems’ where they do not rely on outside inputs. While overall coffee yields are low, the ratio of coffee production compared to farmer’s time and inputs is very high. It could easily be argued that coffee farmers of East Timor are very efficient producers of coffee.

Agronomy of East Timor coffee-just a snap shot!

Original Arabica varieties, such as Typica introduced by the Portuguese, were wiped out by coffee rust. These varieties were replaced by a local natural cross between Arabica and Robusta called Hybrido de Timor (HDT).

HDT has a large frame and large root system, which is ideal for extracting nutrients and water in the harsh dry season and infertile soils. HDT is hardy and resistant to coffee rust. It is low yielding, less susceptible to over-bearing stress and it cups as an Arabica. The tree is very variable in habit, size and leaf. HDT is a very famous coffee amongst coffee breeders, as it has been used extensively to develop many of the rust resistant hybrid coffees planted around the world today.

All Arabica coffee is grown under shade in East Timor, as it does not survive without shade in the harsh, dry conditions. Albizzia molluccana, a giant Albizzia is used as the main shade tree up to 1200m in altitude while over 1200m, Casuarina junghuniana is used.

Due to the long dry season followed by heavy rains there is only 1 or 2 very heavy coffee flowerings each year. This makes for a very short harvest season as all the coffee matures at one time. The harvest season in any area is a maximum of 13 weeks, sometimes as short as 8 weeks. Coffee ripening occurs as the wet season ends and generally progresses up the mountainsides. Coffee harvest begins in the lower northwestern slopes around April and ends in August on the high south facing slopes.

Labour is a major limiting factor in the coffee harvest and much of the coffee is not picked and falls to the ground. The average coffee volume picked per person is only 20 to 30 kg per day per person. The trees are unpruned and harvesters have to climb trees to pick, often on very steep slopes.

Water is difficult to obtain in the dry season so the traditional method of processing coffee is a semi-washed process. This produces low quality coffee, which has developed a poor reputation and a correspondingly low price on the world market. Under the Indonesian era there was no incentive to produce better quality coffee as all coffee in East Timor was purchased at the same price.

Present day coffee in East Timor

East Timor coffee could be best described as vast areas of passively farmed coffee under ageing shade trees-it is/Forest Coffee’. It is not abandoned, but is a specialized farming system that minimises inputs as part of a complex farming system of subsistence agriculture, deeply entrenched in Timorese rural culture. It is a very sustainable production system.

Forty thousand Timorese families have coffee as a major part of their income. This equates to 200,000 people out of total pop of 500,000. The average upland farming family has 1 to 2 ha of coffee as part of a complex and diversified farming system. From a distance it appears to be a continuous forest of ‘wild coffee’. However each farmer knows the bounds of his coffee farm.

NCBA coffee project in East Timor

NCBA (National Cooperative Business Association) arrived in East Timor in 1994 to assist agribusiness in East Timor under a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) funded program. The Indonesian military coffee monopoly was brought to an end and a free market was declared for coffee in East Timor.

NCBA provided technical assistance to a local cooperative and 2 Community Grower Groups (CGG) based in key coffee areas. NCBA identified the potential opportunities and strengths of the coffee industry particularly focussing on the international market requirements.

Two specific opportunities were identified to add value to the Timorese coffee. One was to fully wash the coffee to improve quality and consistency. The other was to develop the Organic coffee program as no coffee farmers in East Timor were using chemicals or fertilizers.

By the 1995 coffee season the coffee cooperative had set up 2 small wet factories, capable of processing 2 tonnes of cherry per day. 700 members of the 2 CGG had been recruited. An Organic inspector from OCIA (Organic Crop Improvement Association) was brought in to inspect these farms.

Sixty-five tons tonnes of exportable coffee was processed in the 1995 season. Fully-washed Timor coffee was found to have potential in the international market. Semi-washed and natural processing were tried but they did not have any appeal in the market.

Farmer members liked the idea of selling fresh cherry coffee. This was a new idea in East Timor, which gave a lot more control in the wet processing of coffee. The Cooperative paid double what the previous monopoly was paying farmers for their coffee. Farmers got better prices for selling cherry (fresh coffee picked from the tree) than if they processed the coffee to dry parchment stage themselves and sold it to traditional buyers. This meant less work and more money for farmers and was immediately successful.

In each of the following years, 1996, 1997, 1998, the Cooperative built bigger factories with technical, financial and management assistance from NCBA. By 1999 the Cooperative had 4 wet factories with daily capacity of 400 tonnes of cherry per day and a dry factory of 20 tonnes green bean (GB) per day. The Cooperative had expanded to 17,000 members in 16 CGGs.

In the 1999 season, 12,000 tonnes of cherry was purchased and 2000 tonnes of GB processed. This was a quarter of the crop of East Timor. It was a very labour intensive operation, where at peak crop the Cooperative employed 3000 labourers. Two hundred trucks per day were rented to move fresh coffee around the various sites.

August 99’ referendum and the destruction of East Timor

The destruction of East Timor after the referendum impacted heavily on the Cooperative. Six hundred tonnes of coffee was looted from warehouses. Offices were looted or destroyed, files and maps burnt. The Cooperative structure was thrown into chaos as many members were in West Timor.

The 2000 coffee season was very chaotic with 1200 tonnes of fully washed coffee processed and exported by the Cooperative. While much has been rebuilt and 16 CGGs re-established, the greatest problems now are the lack of governance and an uncertain political future in East Timor.

Organic coffee certification in East Timor

In 1995 NCBA chose the USA based OCIA to certify the coffee in East Timor. The certification system used was a hybrid system based on US farm certification where 20% of a farm has to be inspected each year. Community Grower Groups (CGG) comprising of up to 1000 farmers in a contiguous area could be treated like a single large farm. Initially two Community Grower Groups were formed in 1995 with 12 sub groups totalling 700 members. By 1999 there were 16 Community Grower Groups with 435 sub groups and over 17,000 members.

The Organic inspector must physically inspect 20% of the farms of each Community Grower Group each year as if he were inspecting 20% of a single farm’s fields each year. All farms of each Community Grower Group have to be inspected over 5 years. This is possible for one farm or 100 farms but for 1000’s of farms it is very costly and virtually impossible.

Over the last 4 years the inspection system has gradually been adapted to handle the large number of farmers. Local cooperative staff do most of the data gathering and an international inspector audits and spot-checks their work. This system is still expensive and not ideal as it still relies on an international inspector to physically inspect vast areas of coffee in East Timor.

During the 2001 season the cooperative is working towards a system where the international inspector will audit the systems in place that are run and managed by the cooperative. In essence the inspector will be auditing the cooperatives’ ability and reliability to manage the Organic program rather than a detailed inspection of coffee farms and production system.

It is hoped that by 2002 an East Timorese certifying organization called " Timor Organic" will be in place. Timor Organic would audit and certify the Cooperative and any other Organic producers and exporters in East Timor to meet international recognised Organic standards. A major step in this process has been the passing of legislation by the interim Government in East Timor to restrict and control the use of chemical and fertilizers in the coffee regions above 1000 m. This will simplify the whole Organic certification process. The aim is to develop a credible East Timor based Organic certification system that is cost effective.

The future directions for the East Timor coffee industry

There seems to be across the board support amongst Timorese for Organic coffee in East Timor. The whole of the East Timor coffee crop is only 0.2% of world coffee production. East Timor has no leverage over the world coffee trade. The best East Timor can do is to develop a niche market for its coffee. East Timor needs a national policy to develop and guarantee the name and reputation of East Timor coffee. It needs to develop:

To highlight this, the reputation of East Timor Organic coffee has been damaged in the 2000 season with new buyers selling low-grade Timor semi-washed as Organic East Timor coffee.

The Coffee industry of East Timor needs to get a higher proportion of the coffee crop to Specialty level by better processing and quality control. This speciality coffee could earn 30% to 40% more than semi-washed coffee.

More private investment is needed in the East Timor coffee industry, particularly in processing and export. However the uncertain political environment makes this type of investment unattractive.

Nationwide strategies for the management of East Timor coffee should take account of its condition as a forest resource rather than an intensive agricultural industry. Appropriate farm extension that empowers and educates traditional leaders is needed.

East Timor’s coffee is unique. It is a "Heritage Coffee" with many marketing opportunities. The coffee industry needs to be managed carefully and skilfully with a clear vision for the future. The history and unique characteristics of East Timor’s coffee must be fully considered before any radical plans for the future direction of the coffee industry are developed.


E Silva, H. L. (1956). Timor E A Cultura do Café. Ministerio do Ultramar, Memorias. Serie’ de Agronomia Tropical.

Wittouck, S.F. (1937). Exploration of Portuguese Timor. A report by the Allied Mining Corporation.

The Coffee Industry of Lao and Prospects for a Speciality/Organic Coffee Industry

by Mr Khamlek Boungnavong Director of Coffee Research Centre, Boloven's Plateau, Lao-PDR and Bounliep Chounthavong Deputy Director, General Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vientiane, Lao-PDR

Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao-PDR) is a landlocked country with a population of 4.7 million people. For administrative purposes, the Lao-PDR. is divided into 17 provinces and one special zone.

The Lao economy is based on agriculture, which accounts for at least 50% of annual GDP. Since 1996, the Lao Government has identified six priority programmes for the development in the agriculture and forestry sector.

At this stage it can be generally stated that Lao-PDR has reached its objective of achieving self-sufficiency in rice at least at the national level. Coffee is probably the crop that has the most advanced production and marketing systems if compared to other commodity crops in Lao-PDR. However, coffee production and marketing in Lao-PDR still faces a number of problems and constraints.

Production is concentrated in the four southern provinces of Saravan, Xekong, and Champasack and Attapui. Most coffee is grown on the Boloven's Plateau, where climate and soils are most favorable. Champasack covers the largest proportion of the Boloven's Plateau and is thus the largest producing area.

Coffee growing in the Lao-PDR is totally organic. No chemical pesticides have been used in coffee production. Major pest and disease outbreaks have not been recorded since pests and diseases are maintained in a natural balance. However, in terms of production, coffee plantations in Lao-PDR experience some constraints. Production techniques are also of the traditional type.

There are three types of coffee grown in the Lao-PDR, namely Robusta (Canephora), Arabica and Liberica. Robusta accounts for 80% of the total plantings, Arabica and Liberica make up only 15% and 5% of the plantation respectively.

Coffee has the most advanced marketing network, for both local and international markets. Currently an increasing number of private companies and proprietors are interested in investing in or supporting coffee production in the Paksong region.

Abrupt changes in coffee market prices provide a serious threat to coffee industries in the Lao-PDR. These fluctuations are caused by a number of factors, but the most important factor is the fluctuation of world coffee production. In the past 3-4 years coffee prices in Lao-PDR experienced an increase, but at the moment they have dropped to an unreasonable level.


Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao-PDR) is a landlocked country situated in the Indo-China region with a land area of approximately 236,800 Km2 and population of 4.7 million. Administratively, the Lao-PDR is divided into 17 provinces and one special zone. Based on topography and climate, the country it is divided into three main regions-Northern region (7 provinces), Central region (7 provinces) and the Southern region (4 provinces).

The Lao economy is based on agriculture. Agriculture makes up at least 50% of annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Since 1996, the Lao Government has identified 6 priority programs for the development in the agriculture and forestry sector. These programs include:

At this stage, Lao-PDR has reached its objective of achieving self-sufficiency in rice, at least at the national level. With special reference to the priority programs of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, besides increasing rice production, the Department of Agriculture has made a tremendous effort to increase the production of various commodity crops. Compared to these other crops, coffee has the most advanced production and marketing systems. However, coffee production and marketing still face a number of problems and constraints. This report will focus on outlining production and marketing of coffee with its constraints and potentials outlined in brief.

Coffee production in Lao-PDR

Coffee has been produced in Lao PRD for a long time, but commercialization was not realized until 1990. In the past, coffee was grown as home garden plants in the southern provinces. In 1976, 1980 and 1985, some 5000, 6000 and 3500 hectares respectively, were planted to coffee.

Since 1985 many farmers in the southern provinces have realized the market potential of coffee products. This realization has become a driving force for significantly increasing coffee production. In 1990 the production area reached 17,100 hectares, and since then this has gradually increased to 29,200 hectares in 1999 (Table 1).

Table 1. Coffee production area in Lao-PDR from 1990-1999 (thousands of hectares)























Production location and production system

Production location

Coffee production is concentrated in the 4 southern provinces of Saravan, Xekong, Champasack and Attapui. Champasack and Saravan have the first and second largest production areas, respectively. Table 2 shows changes in the production area from 1995-1997 for each province.

Table 2. Coffee production area (ha) in each major coffee growing province











































Most coffee is grown on the Boloven's Plateau where climate and the basaltic soils are most favorable. Champasack covers the largest proportion of the Boloven's Plateau and is thus the largest coffee growing area.

Production system

Coffee growing in the Lao-PDR is totally organic-no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used in coffee production. Most production activities are done by hand. Even though coffee is quite a demanding crop, i.e. it requires good water and nutrient management for good cropping, the natural richness of the basaltic soils and the climate of Boloven's Plateau provide these. The average annual rainfall on the plateau is around 1800 mm and the soils are fertile, therefore coffee production in this region relies entirely on natural rainfall for moisture and mostly soil fertility for nutrients. Since pests and diseases are maintained in a natural balance, there have been no major pest and disease outbreaks. Some fungal diseases have been experienced, but their effects have been insignificant.

However, in terms of production, coffee planting in the Lao-PDR experiences some constraints. Occasional frosts provide a significant threat to the development of the coffee plants, therefore affecting the crop. Production techniques are traditional-most field practices including pruning and harvesting are carried out by hand, which is time consuming and labor intensive. Due to this lack of adoption of mechanisation, the expansion of coffee production in Lao-PDR is limited by the capacity of family labor.

Common production varieties

There are three types of coffee grown in the Lao-PDR-Robusta (Canephora) 80% of total plantings, Arabica 15% and Liberica 5%. In comparison to Arabica and Liberica (of less economic importance), Robusta is a medium size, high yielding tree. Arabica trees are relatively small and low yielding, while the Liberica trees are excessively big. Even though various techniques could have been adopted to improve the yield of Arabica in the past, the introduction of improved Arabica lines are of significant economic importance and are in high demand by the coffee growers. However, Robusta is still the dominant coffee grown in Lao-PDR.

Marketing system

Among all the commodity crops produced in the Lao-PDR, coffee is known to have the most advanced marketing network, for both local and international markets. Such a marketing network provides confidence and price assurance to the producers. Currently an increasing number of private companies and proprietors are interested in investing in or supporting coffee production in the Paksong, Boloven's Plateau region, and are responsible for marketing coffee products in both local and international markets. Table 3 shows the coffee products marketed locally and exported by 31 major coffee exporting companies in the Lao-PDR.

Table 3. Amount of coffee exported and used in local markets from 1995-98 (x1000 tons)




































Value (US$)





The above table indicates that the total amount of coffee sold each year has gradually increased. Twenty-two companies have formed a coffee exporting association in the Champasack province. This association is responsible for purchasing coffee beans from the producers for export. The association keeps a close contact with 14 companies overseas, which are the main buyers of Lao coffee beans.

Marketing problems

Abrupt changes in coffee market prices provide a serious threat to coffee industries in the Lao-PDR as well as to the rest of the world. These fluctuations are caused by a number of factors, but the most important being fluctuations of world coffee production. During the last harvesting season, the volume of world coffee sharply increased, resulting in a sudden decrease in prices. In the past 3-4 years, coffee prices in Lao-PDR experienced an increase, but during the last season they dropped to an unreasonable level.

Furthermore, some purchasing companies look for cheap coffee beans without adequately thinking of the quality aspect. Lao-PDR mainly exports coffee beans as a raw material therefore losing opportunities for value adding.


Coffee is one among commodity crops that are produced in the Lao-PDR. It is regarded as the crop that has the most advanced marketing network if compared to the other commodity crops. Production is concentrated in the Boloven's Plateau, with Champasack being the main coffee production area. The majority of coffee is exported through a well-established exporting network. Some produce is marketed locally. Climatic factors, especially occasional frosts and fluctuations in market prices are the two main problems of the coffee industry. Low adoption of appropriately advanced technologies is a constraint to future expansion. However, it is expected that in spite of the above problems and constraints coffee production in Lao-PDR will continue to grow and remain profitable.

Postharvest Processing and Quality Assurance for Speciality/Organic Coffee Products

By P.A. Hicks*, Senior Agroindustry and Postharvest Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand.

* The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author’s alone and do not imply any opinion whatsoever on the part of the FAO/UN.

Coffee background

Coffee growing and drinking spread around the world, starting in the Horn of Africa in Ethiopia, where the coffee tree probably originated in the province of Kaffa. The succulent outer cherry flesh was eaten by slaves taken from present day Sudan into Yemen and Arabia, through the great port of its day, Mocha, now synonymous with coffee. Coffee was certainly being cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century. The Dutch obtained some live coffee trees in 1616, and brought these back to Holland where they were grown in greenhouses. In Asia, The Dutch were also growing coffee at Malabar in India, and in 1699 took some to present day Indonesia which is now the fourth largest exporter of coffee in the world.

In Europe, Venetian traders first introduced coffee in 1615, opening the first coffeehouse in 1683, with the most famous, Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco, opening in 1720. It is still open for business today. The largest insurance market in the world, Lloyd’s of London, began life as a coffee house started in 1688 by Edward Lloyd.

In America, the first reference to coffee being consumed in North America is from 1668 and, soon after, coffee houses were established in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other towns. The Boston Tea Party of 1773 was actually planned in a coffee house, the Green Dragon.

It was the Dutch again who first started the spread of the coffee plant in Central and South America, where today it reigns supreme as the main continental cash crop. By 1825, South and Central America were on track towards their coffee destiny.

Coffee is of major importance in the world economy and is one of the most valuable primary products in world trade. Its cultivation, processing, trading, transportation and marketing provide employment for millions of people worldwide. This new found 'coffee culture' has spread to the rest of the world.

Coffee plant

Coffee belongs to the botanical family Rubiaceae, which has some 500 genera and over 6,000 species. There are probably at least 25 major species of coffee, all indigenous to tropical Africa and certain islands in the Indian Ocean, notably Madagascar. All species of Coffea are woody, but they range from small shrubs to large trees over 10 metres tall; the leaves can be yellowish, dark green, bronze or tinged with purple.

The two most important economic species of coffee are Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee), which accounts for over 70% of world production, and Coffea canephora (Robusta coffee). Two other species grown on a smaller scale are Coffea liberica (Liberica coffee) and Coffea dewevrei (Excelsa coffee).

Coffee is a tropical plant that grows between the latitudes of 25° N and 25° S but requires very specific environmental conditions for commercial cultivation. Temperature, rainfall, sunlight, wind and soils are all important, but requirements vary according to the varieties grown.

Ideal average temperatures range between 15-24°C for Arabica coffee and 24-30°C for Robusta at altitudes up to around 2000 m. In general, coffee needs an annual rainfall of 1500 to 3000mm., with Arabica needing less than other species. The pattern of rainy and dry periods is important for growth, budding and flowering.

Whereas Robusta coffee can be grown between sea-level and about 800 metres, Arabica does best at higher altitudes but less than 2,000 metres, because of frost damage. Arabica can be grown at lower levels further from the Equator, until limited by frost. All coffee needs good drainage, but can be grown on soils of different depths, pH and mineral content, given suitable applications of fertilizer.

Coffee inherent properties

The various physical characteristics of coffee such as weight, volume, size, shape, colour, solubility, moisture content and texture in its different forms, play an important part in the way it is treated and in the design of equipment to process it. Coffee cherries are harvested when the red colour indicates that the appropriate maturity has been reached. Later on, colour is a guide to the degree of roast of the beans.

Flotation or winnowing is used to physically separate defective cherries on the basis of density and to remove twigs and stones.

Size, shape and colour are used to grade beans after they have been dried to an even moisture content for storage. Because coffee beans have a porous, spongy texture, they can easily be contaminated by microscopic fungi, giving rise to off-flavours, or can pick up strong odours, and deteriorate rapidly if allowed to become too moist.

Some typical physical properties of coffee are listed below.

Bulk density

(lb/cu ft)

Red cherry


Wet green beans


Dry beans or pergamino


Light roast beans


Dark roast beans


Coarse ground coffee


Fine ground coffee


Weight yields

Wet process

550lb fresh cherry which yields 225lb of wet pergamino and 200lb dry pergamino which in turn yields 100lb dry polished coffee

Dry process

550lb fresh cherry which yields 200lb dry cherry and in turn yields 100lb dry polished coffee

Roasting causes on average a 16% loss in weight and an increase in bean volume of 50-80%.


Fresh cherry


Green bean


Roast coffee

< 7% (depending on humidity)

Soluble coffee powder

< 4%

Coffee maturity

Coffee plants reach maturity after 18 months to four years depending on the variety, when they bear fruit in lines or clusters along their branches. The fruit turns red or ‘cherry-like’ when it is ready to be harvested. Depending on the type of coffee plant, the cherry takes from six to eleven months to ripen.

Many pests and diseases can affect the plant or its fruits, including leaf or seed fungal diseases, nematode invasion of roots and insect attack of the leaf or cherry. Integrated Pest Management is vital to yield and product quality.

Coffee harvesting

When ready to be harvested, the fruit on the coffee tree turns a dark cherry colour-this is about eight to nine months after flowering. The time of harvest varies but usually there is only one harvest per year. North of the equator, the harvest takes place between September and March; while south of the equator, the harvest takes place in April and May, even until August. In some countries where the division between the wet and dry seasons is not clear (e.g. Kenya and Colombia) there may be two flowerings a year, resulting in a main and secondary crop. Countries on the equator are able to harvest fruit all year round.

Ripe fruits can be plucked by hand, or picked with small rakes or with poles. The first two systems are used where low-cost labour is available and are more selective; the pole system is quicker, but less careful and needs further berry-cleaning.

Where the terrain allows it, special mechanical harvesters can be used for harvesting-a single machine can do the work of 100 men, gathering 95% of the fruit in one go. The machine uses a series of multiple vibrating fingers which, when introduced into the canopy causes the ripe berries to fall into a catching tray. Using a machine is cheaper, but has the disadvantage of picking not just the ripe cherries but also green cherries causing the coffee to taste bitter and over-ripe cherries resulting in the final product having an acrid taste, unless both are rejected.

Most coffee, however, is picked by hand by either selective or strip picking. Selective picking involves the pickers making several passes along the coffee trees at intervals of about 10 days to ensure that only the fully ripe beans are taken. Strip picking means the entire crop is picked in just one pass. Selective picking is more expensive but produces the best results and is used for Arabica beans. On an average coffee farm, pickers may gather between 50 and 100 kilos of coffee cherries per day; of this total weight, only 20 percent is coffee bean.

Coffee processing

Coffee processing must begin immediately after the fruit is harvested to prevent the pulp from fermenting and deteriorating. Coffee beans can be prepared for roasting in one of two ways-the dry method or the wet method. The main difference between these is that the wet method removes the pulp from the bean within 12-24 hours of harvesting instead of allowing the cherries to air dry.

The dry method

This is the oldest, simplest and cheapest producing 'natural' coffees and is adopted mostly in Brasil and Western Africa. The harvested cherries are sorted and cleaned to separate the unripe, overripe and damaged cherries and to remove dirt, soil, twigs and leaves. This is done by hand winnowing, using a large sieve. Unwanted cherries or other materials not winnowed away are picked out from the top of the sieve. The ripe cherries can also be separated by flotation in washing channels close to the drying areas.

Drying. The harvested cherries are then spread out to dry in the sun, on large concrete or brick patios or on matting. They are raked regularly to avoid fermentation and to expose them evenly to the sun's rays. During rain or if the temperature falls, the cherries are covered for protection. After two or three days, coffee cherries are put in drying rooms, where they are dried by the heat of a burner at 45-60oC. This process can take up to four weeks for moisture content of each cherry to reach an optimum 12% at their centres when the outer shell will become dark brown and brittle. The cherries can then be stored in large silos where they stabilize their moisture content.

The drying operation is the most important stage of the process, since it affects the final quality of the green coffee. Coffee that has been overdried will become brittle and produce too many broken beans during hulling (broken beans are considered to be defective beans). Coffee that has not been dried sufficiently will be too moist and prone to rapid deterioration caused by fungi and bacteria.

The wet method

This produces so-called washed or mild coffees and is adopted in Central America, Mexico, Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania and parts of Asia. This involves more capital outlay, more water and more care than the dry method but it does help to preserve the intrinsic qualities of the bean, producing a green coffee, which is homogeneous with few defective beans. The coffee produced by this method is regarded as being of better quality thus commanding higher prices.

Pulping. The beans are separated from the skin and pulp using a pulping machine, which squeezes the cherries between fixed and moving surfaces. The flesh and the skin of the fruit are left on one side and the beans, enclosed in their parchment covering, on the other. The clearance between the surfaces is adjusted to avoid damage to the beans. The lighter, immature beans are then separated from the heavier, mature beans through specially designed washing channels or by shaking the beans through a strainer into a tank of water.

Fermentation. The beans are then stored in fermentation tanks for up to two days during which time the slimy layer of the cherry is separated from its parchment-like covering, by natural enzymes. The length of the fermentation process is based on the condition of the beans and the climate's condition. When the altitude is low, the fermentation time is short. At higher altitudes, the fermentation can take up to 48 hours.

Washing. The coffee is washed in quantities of water (about 100 litres for 10 kilos of coffee) then dried to about 10% moisture. This can be done by solar or by mechanical means. After seven to fifteen days the beans are known as parchment coffee and ideally remain in this form until immediately before export.

Hulling. The outer coverings of the bean (dried coverings of the original cherries in dry process, hull and dried parchment layer in wet process) are then removed. This process is known as hulling and is usually done just before the coffee beans are sold for exporting.

Polishing. Polishing of beans is an optional process. The polishing process is used to remove the outer-filament and any of the parchment-like husk that remains on the bean after hulling. While polished beans are considered superior to unpolished ones, in reality there is little difference between the two.

Grading. Although coffee beans are of fairly uniform size and proportion, they are graded first by size and then by density. The elephant bean is the only exception to this. Beans are sized into different grades by running the beans through sieves and screens with specifically-sized holes.

Sorting. They are then sorted by using an air-jet to separate heavy and light beans. Over-fermented or unhulled beans are now removed. This is usually done by hand as the beans move along a conveyor-belt, but can also be done by electronic sorting which removes defective beans known as 'stinkers' that cannot be distinguished by eye. Flawed or discoloured beans are removed before bagging into sacks marked with grade, plantation and country of origin, ready for export.

Coffee exporting

The principal coffee markets are the New York and London Commodity Exchanges, which trade Arabica and Robusta respectively. Naturally, the price of coffee varies in relation to supply and demand. It is influenced not only by the quality and quantity of the coffee produced, but also by atmospheric factors (freezing temperatures, for example) and changes in the political order.

Storage. Before coffee beans are shipped, they have to be stored, and to prevent them spoiling or losing quality, a number of precautions must be taken. These include paying particular attention to humidity, storage facility location and storage duration.

The preferred place to store coffee is in the vicinity of its production site, i.e. at a relatively high altitude with a low relative humidity. If it is too humid, beans are not separated from their husk (sun-dried pulp) or hull (parchment membrane) until before sending them for shipping.

Coffee beans should be stored in low moisture conditions to prevent attack by mould. The maximum safe water level in the bean is 12% by weight. After reaching this level by thorough drying, any re-wetting and airborne moisture absorption must be prevented (e.g. rain, fog, condensation).

Raw coffee beans are often stored for years before roasting. Their sturdy structure usually prevents them from being spoiled by external agents. However, nothing can be done against the inherent biochemical activity in the seed. In this case, some minor components transform into other components, which taste woody and harsh after roasting.

Shipping. When ready to be shipped, beans are moved by conventional transportation to the docks. There, stevedores experienced in the careful handling of coffee, see that the bags are properly stowed aboard the ship ready for their journey. More than one third of the world’s coffee is shipped to the USA, followed by Germany.

The top export grade of bean is SHB (strictly hard bean) or strictly high grown, which means that the coffee beans are produced at a minimum altitude of 4000 feet above sea level.

Between five and six million tons of unroasted or green coffee are produced each year. Beans are often kept and transported in coarse hessian bags. Beans are also shipped in bulk using bulk containers with plastic liners. On arrival at the destination country, the shipments are sent to warehouses or direct to the roaster.

Coffee tasting

The tasting of coffee is a rigorous and disciplined process, perfected by an expert to evaluate the brew and determine its characteristics. The taster first assesses the green beans for their appearance; a small quantity are then roasted in a laboratory roaster and tested for their flavour and aroma. After the coffee has been infused in water, the brew is 'nosed'; after three minutes the brew is lightly stirred and smelled again. The resulting foam is removed and the tasting begins. A small spoonful of coffee is taken into the taster's mouth and 'chewed' around before being spat out. This procedure is repeated for all the samples with notes made as each one is sampled. The taster is looking at criteria such as acidity, body, aroma and flavour.

Acidity. This is a desirable characteristic in coffee. It is the sensation of dryness that the coffee produces under the edges of the tongue and on the back of the palate. The role acidity plays in coffee is similar to its role regarding the flavour of wine-it provides a sharp, bright, vibrant quality. Without sufficient acidity, the coffee will tend to taste flat. Acidity should not be confused with sourness, which is an unpleasant, negative flavour characteristic.

Body. Body is the feeling that the coffee has in your mouth. It is the viscosity, heaviness, thickness or richness that is perceived on the tongue. Typically, Indonesian coffees possess greater body than South and Central American coffees. Coffees with a heavier body maintain more of their flavour when diluted with milk.

Aroma. This is a sensation, which is difficult to separate from flavour. The aroma contributes to the flavours we discern on our palates. Subtle nuances, such as 'floral' or 'winy' characteristics, are derived from the aroma of brewed coffee.

Flavour. Flavour is the overall perception of the coffee in your mouth. Acidity, aroma and body are all components of flavour. Describing the tastes and flavours of different roasts is as subjective as putting a wine into words. In both cases there's no substitute for your own personal tastes.

Coffee blending and roasting

Coffee Blending. Coffees of various origins are usually blended by the trade in different proportions to make a brew with varying acidity and taste characteristics. Blending is one way in which constant quality and taste is achieved in different batches of a natural product like coffee. With more than 100 coffee growing regions in the world, each producing beans with distinctive characteristics, proper blending is obviously essential to balance the flavours needed to create a superior espresso. A single coffee bean will not generally possess this necessary complexity and many espresso blends will contain three to seven different types of beans.

Coffee Roasting. Among roasters there is no agreement as to which should occur first, the roasting or the blending. Some people believe that roasting each variety separately, to maximize it's flavour characteristics, and then blending, will produce the best result, while others believe that if roasted together, the aromas of the different beans are homogenized during roasting. Blending before roasting certainly has its difficulties in that the homogeneous roasting of beans of different size, weight and country of origin has to be achieved.

When green, coffee keeps for a long time, provided it is protected from moisture-storage can in fact improve it. It is entirely devoid of smell. To release the aroma, coffee has to be roasted, an operation which many coffee lovers insist on performing themselves. A good roaster must be part artist and part scientist, to maintain quality and consistency.

In the development of flavours, roasting is probably the most important step considered so far. Well-roasted coffee should be brown, of varying degrees of darkness, but never black. If not sufficiently roasted, it produces a colourless infusion, and is rough and astringent. If over-roasted it produces a black, bitter, unpleasant drink.

In the roasting process, coffee beans undergo many pyrolytic reactions, which lead to the formation of the substances responsible for their sensory qualities, accompanied by important physical changes. It is during roasting that the sugars and other carbohydrates within the bean become caramelized, creating a substance known as ‘coffee oil’. Technically, this delicate chemical is not actually an oil, but it is what gives the coffee its flavour and aroma.

The modern machines used for roasting evolved from crude vessels around 1200AD, through the first cylindrical design about 1650, to computerized roasters now used by major coffee companies. Yet in the 900 years or so that coffee has been roasted, the basic concept remains the same-to create a flavourful, evenly roasted bean from the green coffee of the fields.

During the industrial roasting process, a small quantity of sugar molasses or various other products is sometimes added to coat the berries. This coating, which is permissible by law, gives the berries a better colour and more shiny appearance, prevents the loss of aroma and has the further advantage for the merchant of increasing the weight. Unfortunately this enables the merchant to use inferior quality or damaged grains.

Speciality coffees, on the other hand, are generally roasted in small batches. The two most common roasting methods are drum and hot-air roasting.

Drum roasting. Drum-type roasting machines roast the coffee beans as they tumble in a rotating drum that is typically heated by gas or wood. When the desired roast is achieved, the beans are poured into a cooling hopper to prevent overcooking. There are three main parts in a traditional drum roasting machine-a heat generator, a vessel where coffee is continuously agitated by rotation of the vessel or by forced heated air, and a cooler where the coffee temperature is reduced.

Hot Air Roasting. The hot-air roaster, also known as a fluid bed roaster, roasts the coffee beans as they lift and tumble on a current of hot air. Most green coffee is roasted at approximately 400°C. The roasting process causes the coffee beans to swell and increase in size by over 50%, while at the same time greatly reducing their weight.

Once the beans have left the roasting machine they must be cooled immediately to prevent autocombustion from modifying the proper grade of toasting that has been achieved. There are three ways of cooling roasted beans:

1. water cooling-a shower of water chills the hot roasted beans, and as coffee absorbs water, this process increases the specific weight;

2. cooling in normal air;

3. cooling in forced air.

A lightly roasted bean may range in colour from cinnamon to a light chocolate tan. Lighter roasts are generally not used for espresso since they produce a sharper, more acidic taste than do darker roasts.

Darker roasts, in contrast, have a fuller flavour approaching a bittersweet tang. As the roast darkens, caffeine and acidity decrease proportionately. Dark roasts can range in colour from a medium-chocolate brown with a satin-like lustre, to an almost black bean with an oily appearance. As a result of this, extremely dark roasts will tend to have a smoky flavour and are better suited for brewed coffee rather than espresso. The amount of oil drawn to the surface of the bean increases proportionately to the length of roasting time.

After roasting, coffee does not keep its aroma for long; it is, therefore, better not to roast or not to buy coffee exceeding current needs. It is advisable to keep the beans in airtight packaging to prevent light, heat and moisture ingress.

Coffee grinding and brewing

Grinding is the last operation through which coffee has to go before being actually made into a drinkable product. Ideally, coffee should be ground immediately before being brewed, as ground coffee quickly loses its aroma.

In the past, coffee was ground in wooden or marble mortars with a pestle; then came different kinds of crank and drawer coffee grinders, and finally the modern-day electric ones. The old coffee grinders differ from the modern-day electric ones, because coffee is 'ground' by the wheel and not 'minced', as happens with the various electric-blade coffee-grinders. These also heat the coffee, further roasting it causing some loss in flavour.

Coffee brewing. There are four basic methods of brewing coffee - boiling, steeping, percolating and filtering. Coffee experts consider filtering the best method of extracting the soluble essences of ground coffee. The coffee is contained in a paper or cloth filter. Very hot, but not boiling, water is poured over the grounds and allowed to flow into a container where it will not come into contact again with the grounds. For perfect coffee, earthenware or glass receptacles should be used, since contact with metal lowers the quality of the drink.

Ways of making coffee

Every culture seems to have their own way of preparing their favourite cup of coffee. These are the most popular methods of making coffee-The Perfect Cup, Espresso Coffee, Cappuccino, Turkish Coffee, Cafetiere/French Press, The Vacuum Pot, The Drip Filter, The Cold Water Brewer, The Percolator.

Coffee substitutes

The number of products, which aim at replacing coffee, is considerable, done in order to reduce the price of coffee. Various grains and roots have been used, all for adulterating purposes. Apart from chicory, the most important adulterants are fig, date, acorn (mildly astringent), malt, barley and other roasted cereals, often flavoured with steam passed through coffee. Chick-pea and lupins are used a great deal in Brittany. This is by no means a complete list. These products, which have a remote resemblance to that of real coffee are harmless, though undesirable.


Clarke, R.J. and Macrae, R. (Eds). 1985. Coffee Vol. 1 - Chemistry. London, Elsevier Applied Science Publishers.

Clarke, R.J. and Macrae, R. (Eds). 1987. Coffee Vol. 2 - Technology. London, Elsevier Applied Science Publishers.

Clifford M.N. and Willson K.C. (Eds). 1985. Coffee; botany, biochemistry and production of beans and beverage. London, Croom Helm.

Rothfos B. 1980. Coffee Production. Hambury, Gordian-Max-Rieck GmbH.

Sivetz, M. and Desrosier, N.W. 1979. Coffee technology. Westport, Connecticut, AVI Publishing Company.

Wrigley G. 1988. Coffee. London, Longman.

Websites 2001

Café Britto:

Pete’s Coffee and Tea: Coffee roasting, freshness and tasting

Supramatic: Harvesting Green Coffee Beans.

Australian New Crops Newsletter: Mechanizing Coffee Harvesting in Australia,

Links to useful coffee related sites

Present Status of Coffee Industry in Vietnam and Opportunities for Specialty/Organic coffee Production

Dr Hoang Thanh Tiem and Dr Trinh Duc Minh The Western Highlands Agro-forestry Scientific and Technical Institute, Buon Ma Thuot, Dak Lak, Vietnam

Though coffee cultivation in Vietnam dates from 1857 when the first coffee trees were introduced and grown in the North of the country, the main commercial development took place after 1975 and has very significantly increased in the last 20 years of this century. By 2000, the total area under coffee in Vietnam, was estimated at about 500,000 hectares with a total production around 700,000 MT of green bean, of which private farmers own more than 80%. Robusta coffee accounts for more than 90% of total coffee area centred on the Western Highlands towards the south where soil and climatic conditions are suitable for this species.

Due to very fast development, while lacking appropriate processing facilities as well as infrastructure, the VN coffee quality has not met the buyers' demand, resulting in low competitiveness in the world market. Furthermore, the highly intensified monocropping system applied in the recent years, i.e. high mineral fertilizer application, excessive water use for irrigation and without shade trees to maximize the yield, are the big challenges that threaten seriously the sustainability of VN coffee industry.

The Vietnam National Coffee Corporation has developed a long-term strategy for improving coffee quality, reducing production cost, diversifying crops and coffee products themselves, promoting technology transfer through extension services, renovating domestic trading and the credit system.

Technically, special focus is placed on the appropriate processing technologies that could be applied to average and small-scale farms with minimum investment and environmental problems. We are also working to establish sustainable agro-systems based mainly on making use of organic resources from shade trees, cover crops, green manures, plant residues, animal waste, coffee husk and pulp and various other organic supplements.

An Arabica Coffee Development project of 100,000 hectares to be established mainly in northern mountainous areas, is an attempt to balance coffee production with Robusta and gain competitiveness.

The orientation of organic-based coffee cultivation along with current Arabica coffee development is creating the basis for Organic coffee production in Vietnam

History of coffee development in Vietnam

Coffee cultivation in Vietnam dates from 1857 when the first coffee trees were introduced by French settlers, and grown at the Catholic churches in northern Vietnam. However, the main commercial development occurred just after 1920 in both the north and the south of the country with almost all coffee plantations owned and managed by the French. The size of each plantation was ranged from 200 to 300 hectares. In the north, Arabica coffee was planted mainly on basaltic soil zones in Nghe An and Thanh Hoa, but the yield was very low at 400-600 kg of green bean/ha. In the south, owing to the abundant sunlight and high temperature Robusta coffee was planted in the Western Highland provinces (Dak Lak, Lam dong, Gialai and Kontum) where soil and climatic conditions are suited to this species. The yield of Robusta coffee in the south was higher at 800-1000 kg of green bean/ha. In particular, some plantations with good management of fertilizer application, pruning and maintenance could achieve a yield of more than 2000 kg/ha.

In 1960 the Government of Vietnam emphasized rehabilitation and development of the coffee industry in the north. At the peak of this development period, the total areas under coffee reached at 10,000 hectares with an annual production of 5000 MT of green bean, but a few years later, due to the severe attack of leaf-rust disease (Hemileia vastatrix B & Br) and white stem borer (Xylotrechus quadripes), many coffee plantations were destroyed and replaced with other crops. At the same time in the South, the coffee industry was almost undeveloped because of the war.

It was not until 1975 after the unification of the country, that the coffee industry in the South was resumed and rapidly developed. Before 1975 the total coffee area was about 11,400 hectares with an overall production of 6800 MT. By 1980 the total area under coffee had increased to 23,000 ha, but the overall production was still only 8400 MT. However by 1983, The Union of Coffee Enterprises, (now the Vietnam National Coffee Corporation) was established. Strongly assisted by the former Socialist countries-Soviet Union, East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland etc., the coffee industry developed quickly, especially in the last 10 years of this century.

During the last 17 years the total coffee areas have increased 20 times from 25,000 hectares previously planted in 1983 to about 500,000 hectares in 2000. Production is estimated about 700,000 MT, making Vietnam the third largest coffee producer in the world after Brasil and Colombia.

Table 1: Coffee area and production in 1975-1999


Area (ha)

Production (MT)



















2000 (*)



Source: Vietnam Coffee and Cacao Association (VICOFA)

(*) - Estimation

In terms of its perception and acceptance on the world market, Vietnam coffee can now be said to have reached a degree of maturity by affecting the world coffee market performance. In 1982 export of Vietnamese coffee totaled a mere 4140 MT or 0.1% of world export market production. Just over 12 years ago in 1987, exports from Vietnam at 25,980 MT accounted for only 0.6 % of world export, placing Vietnam in 25th position among coffee exporting countries. However, it is obvious from Graph 1 that, a spectacular and continuing boost of Vietnam coffee exports has taken place during 1995-1999. By crop year 1999/2000, Vietnam exported 653,000 MT, occupying the second position after Brazil and the top position as a Robusta exporter.

Graph 1. Export volume and export value. Crop years 1995/96 to 1999/00

Graph 2. Vietnam's coffee markets by continent (%). Crop year 1999/00

Coffee is the number two, export earner for Vietnam after food commodities, notably rice. Whereas in 1982 Vietnam coffee exports generated about US$5 million, by 1999 this rose to US$538 million in spite of a sharp falling price in the world market. However, as a Robusta exporter, earnings per unit value are low compared to other Arabica exporters, thus Vietnam's global position in terms of export value is fifth after Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala.

Distribution of export destinations has expanded also. In the 1980s, Vietnam’s main market was Singapore as a base for subsequent re-export, followed by the former USSR, France, China and Germany. By 2000, Vietnam coffee was exported to 57 countries and territories including most major consuming markets of EU and especially USA. Vietnam had 22.5% of the coffee bean world export thus gaining a leading position in the 13-countries top-group importing over 10,000 MT. The general market distribution by continent in the crop year 1999/2000 illustrated in Graph 2, shows that besides huge markets of EU (58%) and America (25%), Asia also absorbed a significant coffee bean volume of 11% from Vietnam and this is a promising market for further penetration.

Present status of coffee industry in Vietnam-issuses and challenges

Robusta coffee production: achievements and challenges

Soil and climatic characteristics in robusta coffee growing regions

Based on the different biological and environmental requirements of Arabica and Robusta coffee species, coffee growing in Vietnam is defined by two regions. Robusta coffee is grown from the Hai Van Pass southwards. The climate in this region is relatively moderate with high temperature, abundant sunlight and two distinct seasons. The rainy season usually lasts from May to October, accounting for more than 70% total annual rainfall. The dry season lasts from November to April characterised by very strong winds, low relative humidity and high evapo-transpiration rate. In the Western Highlands, this dry period coincides with the coffee blooming, so that the crop can be lost completely with the trees dying also unless enough water is supplied at the right time (Table 2).

Most Robusta coffee is grown on basaltic soils that have good texture, a deep profile and are rich in organic matter and nutrients (Table 4). In general, the climatic and soil conditions in the South are most favorable for Robusta coffee growing, except for some areas at higher elevation (more than 800 m above the sea level) which are more suited to Arabica coffee.

Production system

At present Robusta coffee accounts for more than 90% of total the coffee area in Vietnam with more than 80% of the area and production being owned by private farmers. There are approximately 500,000 households involved in this coffee/land ownership with areas ranging from 0.5 to 3 ha.

Although spectacular achievements have been made in terms of yield, total production and export value, the Vietnam coffee industry is facing many negative effects, which are causing great concern for its sustainability, the environment, producers and the Government. The current highly intensive cultivation practices and quasi-monocropping of vast coffee areas create many potential risks.

Planting materials and densities

Before 1990, owing to very fast expansion of coffee growing areas, most coffee farmers and coffee State farms used unselected seedlings. This resulted in a fairly high proportion of trees which produce low yields, small bean size and are susceptible to leaf-rust disease. Furthermore, the uneven blooming and non-uniform ripening between trees in Robusta coffee plantations are now huge obstacles in harvesting and processing. From 1990 to 2001, multi-clonal seeds and grafted seedlings of high yielding and disease resistant clones have been widely used in new planting areas. These selected plants have contributed significantly to the improvement in yield and quality of bean size. However, in order to achieve a national average yield of 2-2.5 MT green bean/ha, a long-term program is underway to renovate the old plantations which were planted with unselected seedlings, by top grafting them with high yielding clones.

There are only two planting densities that are recommended for Robusta coffee in Vietnam:

Training and pruning system

To ensure high and stable production, it is recommended that all Robusta coffee farms follow the single-stem training and regular pruning system. Although the single-stem pruning system ensures higher and more stable yields than those of the multi-stem and free-growth pruning systems, it is more labour intensive and therefore only suitable for areas where labour is not scare or expensive.

Chemical fertilizer use

Though organic matter is frequently applied through cover crops, green matter, plant residue, cattle manure, coffee husks, bio-fertilizers etc, chemical fertilizer still has had to be supplied to achieve high and stable coffee yields and maintain soil fertility. Based on results obtained from a number of fertilizer trials, conducted in different Robusta coffee growing zones, the application of 250-300kg N, 100-150kg P2O5 and 250-300 kg K2O/ha/year, depending on the type of soil, is enough to ensure a production of more than 3 MT of green bean/ha. However, in recent years owing to the high coffee price, many farmers tended to apply more and unbalance the NPK ratio.

On average, high yielding Robusta coffee plantations have received not less than 1.5-2.0 MT of commercial chemical fertilizer/ha/year of which nitrogenous and potassium chloride fertilizers have been used in relatively free manner. Excluding pesticides, these high application rates have been linked closely with water pollution data and human health problems although a careful survey has not been carried out. Furthermore, the critical impact on soil properties has been proven by evidence of lower pH, structural deterioration, K/Mg imbalance, micro-element deficiency and a growing incidence of root diseases caused by nematodes and fungi proliferating in high acidity soil.

Water exploitation for coffee irrigation

Irrigation is a decisive factor for most of the Robusta growing areas that have a severe 5-6 month dry season in the South of the country. Thus, coffee gardens/farms developed in areas around surface water resources or at places where ground water can be exploited by well digging or drilling. In a normal year, irrigation must reach a rate of 2,500-3,000 m3/ha split across three to four applications to secure a good harvest and offset drought. The over-exploitation of ground water has had a long-lasting detrimental impact on ecology and in recent years, has made it more difficult and costly to satisfy water demand for coffee expansion.

A number of areas considered marginal have become new coffee farms without promising success. In the severe drought of 1998, several coffee farms were destroyed. Irrigation input accounts for around one sixth to one fifth of total production cost-a large amount but mandatory for successful production in this high-input regime. Challenges arising from increasingly scarce water resources need urgent measures to control land allocation for coffee, change the cropping pattern and discover the proper irrigation practices to minimize water use.

Shade coverage and wind break

Traditionally, coffee gardens were established under shade, well protected from the wind and yielding a modest but stable harvest of under 2 MT/ha. The shade trees have gradually disappeared in the available coffee areas to increase the effectiveness of high fertilization and irrigation. Vast highly intensive, newly-planted coffee farms without shade and wind breaks, partly explain the unprecedented yields. However, persistent concerns and arguments for a more sustainable environment have been demonstrated elsewhere.

Clear-felling of forest, planting coffee without shade and wind breaks in a quasi-monoculture and over-exploitation of soil and water resources, depict an impressive current performance, but deliver a major warning for the future!

Processing and quality control

Coffee bean quality reflects the status of every step in the system production system from planting to obtaining the final product for export. The vital challenge for Vietnam is to produce high quality coffee to ensure the competitiveness and the sustainability of the Vietnam coffee industry. This latter issue is raised frequently and consistently by coffee authorities, both within and outside Vietnam.

In recent years negative effects on coffee quality have been caused by:

It should be noted here that the trend in recent years of the rainy season extending into the harvest period has made efforts for coffee quality improvement more difficult. More than 80% of coffee volume produced by small growers with insufficient drying facilities and multiform processing has been the main factor leading to non-uniform quality and deterioration. Most of the industrial processing plants operated by large coffee companies with strictly-controlled harvesting, curing and grading have yielded high coffee bean quality regardless of whether wet or dry processing is used. Such coffee and its reliability has gained the favor of buyers which is justified by higher prices and favourable trading contracts.

There is a limited capacity for industrial plants to process coffee berries from small growers, who then usually use locally-made, small depulping/dehusking and drying machines which cause a high rate of broken beans and off-flavours. Other defects such as black beans, mouldy beans, excess moisture beans have been found in high numbers at sun-based drying places with bad weather conditions. Although careful sorting at later stages can remove a large proportion of defective beans, growers suffer considerably from reduced value and low prices at the farm gate resulting in a low ‘freight-on-board’ price.

With the current low coffee prices, competitive advantage from a cheaper selling price because of low labour costs and high coffee yields, is of no advantage unless high and stable coffee quality is maintained. Coffee authorities are deeply conscious of these problems and the quality situation must be addressed in near future.

Arabica coffee production

While Robusta coffee development has been an outstanding achievement, that of Arabica is still at an early stage with the current total area of around 22,000 hectares of young plantations and annual production below 10,000 MT. Although Arabica coffee had been widely planted in several provinces before 1990, it was not until 1997 that the Vietnam Government officially approved a program of planting 100,000 hectares of Arabica coffee. This ambitious program is attempting to increase the competitiveness of Vietnam coffee using Arabica to produce to about 100,000 MT. Also the Arabica planting programme is aimed at solving the socio-economic problems in Northern and Northern Central Coast mountainous provinces, while linking with the program to grow 5 million hectares of forest throughout the country to protect the environment and conserve natural resources.

Natural conditions

From Hai Van Pass northward is marked as the Arabica coffee growing region. The climate in this region is characterized by four distinct seasons. In winter and spring the weather is fairly cold and cloudy with average temperatures ranging from 16°C-20°C. These conditions are considered favourable for Arabica coffee to produce higher quality and better aroma. Though the rainfall in these two seasons is low, it is the wet spring, caused by heavy fog and dense drizzle, that creates good conditions for inducing coffee flowering. Irrigation is not necessary for coffee grown in this region (Table 3).

Except for Nghe An, Quang Tri and Lam Dong provinces where Arabica coffee is grown on basaltic soils, Arabica coffee in other provinces is grown on different soil types, predominantly Acrisols, derived from granite and limestone. In general, these Acrisols are relatively low in organic matter and nutrients.

Opportunities and Challenges

Although the Arabica coffee expansion program is much encouraged and strongly supported by the Government, a number of challenges in the implementing process need further attention and consideration to be overcome.

Natural conditions

Even though temperature and rainfall distribution in the Northern region is favorable for Arabica growth, high yield, good taste and aroma, frosts occur at times on the northwest aspects and will kill newly-established trees and severely damage older ones. Options are to replace coffee with other crops or re-establish the shade cover before introducing coffee. Furthermore, infertile soils on steeper slopes need proper practices to prevent soil erosion, increase organic matter and maintain the soil fertility. Complicated topographical distribution is also a factor in planning, production cost calculation, growing and organization networks needed within coffee sector in such mountainous areas. Also, proper cultural practices must be adopted to ensure success.

Socio-economic conditions

The infrastructure and availability of inputs in remote mountain areas are still far from standards required for the production of perennial industrial crops and especially for coffee. Lessons learned from other fruit crops in the last few years have justified higher investments to:

An inclusion of coffee into the cropping system needs huge capital investments, proper technology and training for needy and little-educated minority farmers. Capital sources have been mobilized especially for the Arabica coffee program, as well as other large development programs for mountain areas, but the credit access for farmers and the institutional infrastructure need further improvement.

Planting materials

Arabica coffee already established constitutes 22,000 hectares and depends largely on the Catimor cultivar, which had been further selected and released in 1994 by WASI. Catimor selections have leaf rust resistance, high yield, wide adaptability and good coverage with high density planting options suitable for sloping lands. Efforts to develop Arabica coffee in early 1980s in the Western Highlands were hindered due to damaging leaf rust attack on old cultivars, thus Catimor was quickly accepted in spite of weaknesses in bean size and cup quality.

It is evident that in Northern mountainous areas with less leaf rust problems, some traditional high quality Arabica cultivars should be reassessed along with and new well-known cultivar introductions. It takes time to create a new variety or adapt an exotic variety, so diversification of Arabica cultivars is an urgent issue for the future.

Processing methods and facilities

A significant question at the moment is whether Arabica in the Northern region can be produced to satisfactory quality standards for the world market? Most of the Arabica coffee is produced by small private farmers who have low educational standards, no experience in coffee cultivation practices or processing technologies and with insufficient investment capital. Although the Arabica exports in recent couple of years have been still insubstantial, the average quality was poor as measured by defects and off-flavours. In 2000, Cafecontrol (Hoang Anh, 2000), reported the discard rate of Arabica increased to 25-30% during grading for export due to small bean size and defective beans. Cup quality was much reduced by various off-flavours. It is evident that the weaknesses of Arabica quality can be attributed to the lack of proper processing methods and facilities.

Opportunities for Speciality/Organic coffee production

Beyond doubt, the development of coffee production in Vietnam has been successful. The success is attributed to integrated factors relating to favourable growing conditions, suitable and incentive development policies, effective institutional infrastructure, capable and active human resources, intensive farming practices and market opportunities.

Also Vietnamese coffee’s inherent quality is well-known under the brand name ‘Coffee Buon Ma Thuoc’, formerly ‘Coffee Tonkin’ produced in appropriate ecological zones with traditional varieties, less intensive cultivation practices, correct harvesting, processing and storage. Coffee correctly harvested and processed has gained high favour with buyers and roasters in EU and America in recent years.

However, for more sustainable coffee industry development and winning higher market favour, there are many challenges still ahead. The Vietnam National Coffee Incorporation and Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association (VICOFA) has already been launched to provide:

Technically, special focus must be placed on:

The fundamental inherent factors are available in Vietnam coffee sector for Specialty/Organic coffee development. Specialty coffee, defined as unique coffee resulting from a combination of a number of factors such as growing conditions, varieties and processing traditions, could be produced in Vietnam in several suitable regions provided suitable varieties and processing methods are identified.

Organic coffee is perhaps more difficult in terms of feasibility and available experience. Vast available Robusta coffee areas on fertile basaltic soils and Arabica growing in less chemical-input mountainous areas, would be the ideal opportunities for Organic coffee production. The farmers' tradition of applying organic matter encouraged by technical instructions, incentive land use policy and a price premium would enable more Organic coffee to be produced. Organic agriculture has been a keen target of WASI in its research on organic matter supply, cover crops, green manure, plant residue usage and bio-organic fertilizer application.

Another justifiable factor to pursue the Specialty/Organic coffee opportunity, is the current supply surplus of conventional coffee in the world market that may continue in coming years and the consistent increase the yearly demand for Organic coffee.

Since 1997, VICOFA has been conscious of the exploitable advantages as well as weaknesses of the coffee sector and growing market demand of Specialty/Organic coffee. Furthermore Specialty/Organic coffee would be among the alternatives to strengthen Vietnamese competitiveness in the world market and sustain the coffee industry. This concept is acknowledged not only by relevant authorities, but also by thoughtful coffee growers.

The Specialty/Organic coffee development is a process that needs much effort and proper steps, but it is a realistic perspective that could be achieved with international and regional cooperation.


Chapman, K.R. 2000. Introduction to the First Regional Round Table on Sustainable Organic and Specialty coffee, Production, Processing and Marketing. pp. 7.

Doan Trieu Nhan, Phan Quoc Sung, Hoang Thanh Tiem. 1999. Coffee in Vietnam. Agriculture Publishing House, Hanoi. pp. 402.

Doan Trieu Nhan. 1999. Vietnam Coffee Industry: Prospects, Issues and Challeges. The 5th Asia International Coffee Conference 1999. Feb. 2-6, 1999, Hanoi, Vietnam. pp. 8.

Dubois, C.P.R. 1999. International Views on Vietnamese Coffee Industry Development: Trade Patterns and Vietnamese Coffee in the Global Sacle. The 5th Asia International Coffee Conference 1999. Feb. 2-6, 1999, Hanoi, Vietnam. pp. 8.

Doan Trieu Nhan. 2000. Coffee Market Situation and Strategy for Vietnam Coffee Industry Sustainability. Workshop on Vietnam Industrial Trees and Forest Development, Nov. 10-17, 2000. pp. 32-45.

Hoang Anh. 2000. Vietnam Coffee Quality Assessment. Workshop on Vietnam Industrial Trees and Forest Development, Nov. 10-17, 2000. pp. 46-51.

ICO. 2000. Organic coffee. Summary of a Round-table Discussion on Coffee Produced by Organic Farming Methods and the Position in the Year 2000. pp. 7.

P.E. Leblache. 1999. Gourmet Coffee: The Profitable Side of the World's Coffee Trade. Notes accompanying ConsultAboard's presentation on Gourmet Coffee. Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 4, 1999. pp. 7.

VICOFA. 2000. Coffee production and Export Statistics.

Table 2. The climatic factors in Robusta coffee growing provinces in the Western Highlands of Vietnam


















Buon Ma Thuot (DakLak)














(° C)

Pleiku (Gialai)














Lien Khuong (Lam Dong)















Buon Ma Thuot (DakLak)















Pleiku (Gialai)














Lien Khuong (Lam Dong)















Buon Ma Thuot (DakLak)















Pleiku (Gialai)














Lien Khuong (Lam Dong)














Relative humidity

Buon Ma Thuot (DakLak)















Pleiku (Gialai)














Lien Khuong (Lam Dong)














Table 3. The climatic factors in Arabica growing provinces of North Vietnam


















Son La














(° C)

Tuyen Quang














Hoa Binh















Son La















Tuyen Quang














Hoa Binh















Son La















Hoa Binh














Relative humidity

Son La















Tuyen Quang














Hoa Binh














Table 4. Nutrient contents in basaltic soils in various zones of Vietnam


Profile depth


Organic matter

Total (%)

(mg/100 gr of soil)

Ca+2 & Mg+2






























































Nghe An





































Coffee Production, Processing and Marketing in Myanmar Experience and Prospects for Organic/Specialty Coffee

by Gregory Love (Golden Triangle Eco-Resources) and U Okar Aung (MFE, Ministry of Agriculture, Myanmar)

Myanmar today is poised to take its place as a leading producer of Specialty coffees in South East Asia. This is a result of the concerted educational efforts by elements of the private sector combined with, and supported by, the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Myanmar Farm Enterprises. In our paper we will first present a brief history of coffee cultivation in Myanmar, along with facts regarding planted acreage, cultivars grown, and tons produced. Following this will be a description of the activities and experiences of my company, Golden Triangle Eco-Resources, in establishing extensive training programs in coffee production for farmers in coffee growing regions throughout the country. We will look at the training format used and the results obtained. This paper will also discuss our belief in the importance of growing premium as opposed to commercial coffee in today's market.

History of coffee in Myanmar

Roman Catholic missionaries in the Mon and Thanintharyi Divisions established the first recorded coffee plantations in Myanmar in 1885. Then in 1930, Mr. George Strand from Scotland established the first large-scale plantation, when he planted 350 acres of Arabica coffee in the Chaung Gwe area of the Northern Shan State. Almost all Arabica coffee presently grown throughout the country originated from coffee grown on this plantation. The first known and recorded varieties introduced were Bourbon varieties S-795 and Amerillo around 1935. In 1982 Red and Yellow Cattura was introduced into the Pyin Oo Lwin area, followed by Catimor in 1995.

Until very recently, other than two formal government plantations-one in the Mandalay Division and the other in Northern Shan State, almost all coffee grown in Myanmar has been grown as a back yard crop with an average family having no more then 20-100 plants. The coffee is all grown in totally natural conditions under jungle cover without the benefit of fertilization, pest control or pruning. Most of the Arabica coffee grown in Myanmar is grown at altitudes of over 900 m., consequently rust disease is not really a big problem.

Traditionally, the farmers of Myanmar at harvest time, pick all the cherries on their bushes as soon as the first group of cherries turn red. As a result they only have one picking, with, on average 80% or more of the cherries being green. This problem with improper harvesting techniques would appear to be the result of a lack of education about coffee, exacerbated by the practice of the local brokers to encourage the farmers to pick and sell them the coffee at the earliest possible moment before another broker could buy it. Also, most farmers in Myanmar have never drunk coffee, as it is a tea drinking culture, and as such have no concept of what makes good coffee.

Also traditionally, processing is almost totally disregarded except for the most rudimentary forms. Farmers have no idea about floating the cherries to remove diseased or bad ones, and quite often store the wet cherries in piles in their houses or storage sheds for days until they get around to drying them. Cherries are placed on mats or simply on the ground in front of the houses until dry, with no thought or very little given to turning them or bringing them in at night. After drying the cherries are kept in piles on the floor, or in old bags, often for months or even years, until the farmer decides to crush them or until he think the price is right in the market. When he wishes to sell some coffee, the cherries are crushed using a mortar and a pestle causing the green beans to split, bruise and crush. As a result the coffee brought to market is of very low quality. There is also nothing to encourage the farmers to improve the quality of their coffee, as the local brokers pay the same price for good quality coffee as for bad. To get good quality coffee for legitimate export was almost impossible. Other than a small amount of coffee sent to Mandalay or Yangon for local roasting, all the coffee was sent to the borders as border trade items in exchange for other hard goods-the value given to the coffee is very low.

Coffee production in Myanmar

In 1994 the government decided to promote the growing of coffee as an export crop. As part of this program they have so far distributed prime coffee growing land of 10,000 acres, and of this, approximately 3600 acres are presently planted. At present coffee is produced in twelve Divisions in Myanmar as shown below.



Harvested acres

Approximate yield in 1998-1999 (tons)









Golden Triangle Eco-Resources

In 1998 during a trip to Myanmar, I was shown some superb coffee that so impressed me that I had some evaluated by experts in the US and Europe. Their analyses were basically unanimous, that the base Arabica coffee grown in Myanmar would be of premium quality if properly processed. With this in mind, and a determination to produce a truly great and exotic coffee, we began Golden Triangle Eco-Resources.

In the beginning we started working with local brokers to purchase the best quality market coffee and then to grade and sort it for export. We quickly realized that:

1. due to improper harvesting, drying, crushing and storage, the waste percentage was so high as to make it impossible to collect a sufficient quantity of coffee economically;

2. the local brokers instead of working with us to improve the coffee, would do anything they could to increase the volume they sold us, even going so far as to mix old, black, and bad beans with the coffee.

We realized that the key to producing a superior coffee was to control where possible, the entire process from cherry through to green beans and then to establish a training program for farmers in more remote areas without sufficient infrastructure, to enable us to establish our own processing centers. To date the company has established 16 drying centers, 11 of which were established under a UNDP Community Development Program for Remote Border Regions, and three company-owned processing centers, one each in Northern and Southern Shan States, and one in Chin State.

During the harvest season, coffee cherries are brought by the farmers and local village brokers directly to the drying centers or collected by teams of our own company buyers working directly with the farmers in their villages. Cherries are also bought on the local market days. All cherries processed in the drying centers are first floated to remove diseased and bad cherries, and then the very green cherries are separated from the red cherries before being sun-dried. The red cherries are all dried on bamboo mats on the ground, or on specially constructed drying tables, with all cherries being turned by hand a minimum of four times a day. After drying for an average of two weeks in the sun, the cherries are transferred to one of the processing centers where they are crushed, polished and graded mechanically. Teams of women then hand-sort the beans removing all remaining defective or broken beans.

Golden Triangle Training Programs

The Golden Triangle Training Programs were established for farmers with three primary objectives in mind:

1. to teach them correct methods for harvesting, processing and storing their coffee;

2. to educate them about the requirements and needs of the export buyers, so by satisfying these requirements they could get a higher price and derive a better income for their families;

3. to inform them how the world market works, how the price for coffee is determined, the importance of quality, and what costs are involved in processing, sorting, packing and transporting coffee for export that determine the FOB prices quoted on the world market. Farmers need to understand and determine for themselves what is a fair and reasonable price for their coffee, so that they are neither cheated by the brokers, nor have such unrealistic expectations on the sale of their coffee.

When developing the training program, we took a pragmatic rather then theoretical approach to the different subjects. We strove to show the farmers, for each topic of harvesting, or storage, or drying what would be the economic effect if if they not carried out correctly.

For example, rather then just tell them that they shouldn't pick green cherries or that they can't make good coffee from green cherries we showed them how they would get much more money if they picked red cherries:

"In Myanmar farmers sell the cherries by a volume unit called a Pyi. Now it takes 2200 unripe small green cherries to make one Pyi, but it only takes 1300 large red cherries to make one Pyi. When you consider the lower market price for green or mixed quality cherries combined with the greatly reduced number of Pyi you obtain if you pick green or mixed cherries you lose over 60% of your potential income."

Another example would be:

"If it takes a women ½ an hour to crush one Pyi by hand therefore it takes maybe 1 ½-2 hours to crush and produce 1 Viss (Myanmar weight unit equaling 3.6 lbs) of green beans. When you crush by hand you split and crush the green beans and the farmer gets a lower price in the market. As the price for green beans is only a few kyats more than for the equivalent amount of cherries, then you are losing time and money by trying to hand-crush."

In the training courses, we constantly try to teach them by using charts, facts and examples from their own lives, that if they follow and adopt new methods they will make more money and have more time to pursue other income-producing projects.

Another important aspect of the training is to explain the how the world coffee markets operate and the needs and requirements of the exporters and roasters. We have found that the more the farmers understand the reasons why we tell them to pick one way or to process another way, and the more they understand the impact this will have on not just today's price, but on the future price, the more responsive they are.

In organizing the training, we first met with the local village and community leaders to explain what we were trying to accomplish. By gaining their understanding and trust, the training becomes more effective as these community leaders actually encourage the people to attend and take notice of our suggestions. We also work very closely with the monks in the village monasteries for the same reason, as the people look up to them as teachers and will respond to their advice.

We have found that for training to be truly effective, it must be conducted on an ongoing basis. Each year we need to return to the same villages to repeat the training. We have found that in subsequent training sessions attendance is higher as word is passed around the villages by farmers who have attended the earlier sessions and who have successfully adopted the systems and methods in which we have instructed them. We ask them to speak of their experiences and have found that the success of their peers and fellow farmers has a great influence in encouraging other farmers to follow the suggested methods. Based on the reactions from farmers, and the changes we have witnessed in the market place, we believe that a proper educational program is, and will be, a key element for countries in South East Asia wishing to increase the quality and income generated from their coffee.

When we began the training programs, almost all coffee was processed by the farmers and the wet cherries that were offered in the market were on average 70-80% green. Presently in areas where we have been conducting the training over a few years, we are receiving on average 95% red cherries and most of the market coffee produced by the farmers themselves has increased greatly in quality. The basic conclusion to be drawn from this is, that when properly done, educational programs for coffee do work and can go a long way to improving the quality of coffee available for export.


I would now like to touch on the subject of quality and the varieties of coffee presently being produced in our area. We all know that coffee prices are at or near an all-time low, but why? Well the answer is really very simple. "The world is suffering from an enormous over-production of cheap and very bad coffee." (Pierre Leblanche, pers. comm). Why is this? Golden Triangle Eco-Resources believe and agree, as do many other experts, with Timothy Castle who puts the blame on, "The ongoing popularity of the Catimor hybrids, which produce a coffee no experienced and discerning cupper would willingly drink."

In today's coffee world it seems that almost everyone is looking for high yields and good disease resistance. While it is true that the Catimor hybrids produce higher yields and are resistant to rust disease, what good are 10-15% higher yields when as a commercial coffee it returns a 25-50 % lower price then a premium coffee? It is for this reason, that we believe it is imperative that the countries of Southeast Asia focus more on cup quality when choosing varieties to promote to their farmers if they wish their coffee to stand out in the market and receive the revenues and anticipated benefits.

Organic coffee

Before concluding, I would like to take this opportunity to put forward a suggestion for consideration regarding Organic coffee. Organic coffee, as we know, and as has been discussed at this meeting, receives a premium of on average 20% or more on the world market. Much of the coffee presently grown in South East Asia is organic, most often maybe not by design but rather due to the high cost and unavailability of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Regardless of the reason it is still organic.

The problem is that to promote coffee as organic, certification is needed. This process is at present done by western agencies and can be incredibly expensive-beyond the reach of the small land holders who make up the majority of coffee farmers in South East Asia. I would like to suggest that the coffee producing countries of South East Asia, establish Organic Coffee Certification Boards, based on the norms and standards used by the established western agencies. The certification process could then be conducted in-country by the Ministry of Agriculture, using existing agricultural extension officers in each coffee growing area to inspect the land and farming methods of the farmers, and to certify the coffee where the norms and standards are met.

It should even be possible to receive funding from NGOs or other international aid organizations for the establishment of such Organic Certification Boards, as the cost should not be excessive. Most of the operating costs would already be covered under existing budgets, and such a program would not necessitate the purchase of expensive equipment or the hiring of large numbers of workers, but is more a matter of setting the norms and training the existing field agents in the inspection and certification procedures.

Such a program could go a long way in increasing the value of much of each country's coffee available for export.


In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that it is our belief that a great amount can be done to improve the quality and income derived from much of the existing coffee presently produced in South East Asia. This improvement in quality can be done through the implementation of well planned and conducted training programs for the local farmers in each region.

A good training program is highly cost effective relative to its low running cost, and highly beneficial, through the implementation of improved methods and practices regarding each step in the growing, harvesting, and processing of coffee.

Simultaneously more attention needs to be paid to coffee varieties planted, with the focus shifting from higher yields to greater quality. Please keep in mind that it does not pay to produce 10-15% higher yield if you receive a 30-50% lower price for your coffee in the market. With the over-abundance of commercial coffee on the world market, and the increasing demand for Organic, Specialty and Premium coffee, it should be apparent that if the producing countries of South East Asia wish to compete with the producing countries of Africa and the Americas, they need to pay more attention to quality, both in terms of agricultural methods and in the cup quality of the coffee we produce.

I am happy to answer any questions now, time allowing. And if any of you are interested, Golden Triangle Eco-Resources would be available to help develop training programs for your local farmers.

Coffee Cultivation and Production in Myanmar

by U Okkar Aung, Myanmar Farms Enterprise, Ministry of Agriculture & Irrigation,Yangon, Union of Myanmar

From 1885 coffee arrived initially in the Tanitharyi Division (Southern Part of Myanmar). In 1930 a Scott, Mr G. Shant, founded Chaungwe Coffee Farm at Naungcho in Northern Shan State. In 1948, a Myanmar national, U Ba Tu, bought the Chaungwe Farm from Mr Shant and transferred all the coffee business. At the time, Chaungwe Coffee Farm was the only large plantation-comprising some 146 acres, in Myanmar.

By 1952, U Ba Tu had established another 60 acres of coffee at Pwedaung Coffee Farm at Pyin Oo Lwin a hilly region of Mandalay Division. From the output of these two farms, coffee powder production was commercially distributed, initially in Upper Myanmar and then through Lower Myanmar. In 1968, these coffee farms and factory were nationalized becoming the responsibility of Ministry of Industry I. From 1979 to 1985, the Ministry of Industry I exported 910 MT of Myanmar coffee to Europe and Asia. In December 1994, the coffee estates and factories were handed over to Myanmar Farms Enterprises (Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation) with the cultivation and production of coffee becoming the responsibility of the Ministry. The Bourbon coffee type originally cultivated in India and Ceylon is still surviving in Myanmar.

Small-holder coffee planting began in 1960. Mostly, coffee was planted in the back yards of the houses with the purpose of making a supplementary income. Since 1972 in line with the opium substitution crop programme, small-holder coffee planting has extended to Shan State, Chin, Kachin and Karen States.

Current situation of coffee in Myanmar

Coffee is grown in Myanmar across a wide range of locations. Myanmar is a heavily forested, mountainous country with plateaus, valleys and plains. Mountain ranges vary in altitude from 3000 to 7000 feet where highland coffee (Arabica) grows well. Detailed statistics of coffee production for Myanmar States and Divisions are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Coffee production for Myanmar States and Divisions (1999-2000)



Cultivation area

Harvested area

Yield Viss/area

















































































Average yield per acre 0.19 MT

From the above table it can be seen that the most prominent coffee producing States/Divisions are Shan State (50.19% of the area), Kachin (19.9%), Mandalay (8.90%) and Chin State (7.44%).

From 1994 onwards, Myanmar Farms Enterprises took full responsiblity for private sector coffee cultivation and area expansion. In response to the requirements of the coffee extension programme, yearly plans have been prepared for acreage expansions and production of high yields and quality beans. Under Myanmar Farms Enterprises, there are six coffee estates (Table 2) and five private sector growing areas (Table 3).

Table 2. Myanmar Farm Enterprises Estates (1998-99)


Name of Estates


Yield Viss/Acre






S 795, Caturra R&Y, Catimor


Do Kwin








S 795







Htay Zan



S 795














Table 3. Private sector (Myanmar Farms Enterprises) registered coffee growing areas (1999-2000)



Registered growing areas



Pyin Oo Lwin


Mostly Catimor varieties


Naung Cho



Yak Sauk










At present, the Coffee Department (under Myanmar Farms Enterprises) is conducting adaptation trials on different varieties in order to select those best suited to Myanmar's conditions. The varieties grown in small observation plots are Caturra (R&Y), San Ramon, SL 34, SL 28, S7 95, Catimor 7963, 5175, 8667 and some Catimors from Vietnam and Laos.

Objectives and activities of coffee extension in the private sector

During 2000-2001, in Pyin Oo Lwin region (Mandalay Division), 5466.60 acres have been provided by the Government to private sector coffee growers. By the end of 2000, private coffee growers had cultivated 4453.95 acres, and the remaining1012.65 acres will be cultivated by the end of 2001.

In Kachin State (Northern Myanmar), the Coffee Development as Sustainable Income Programme by UNDP and NATALA, motivates small-holding coffee growers in effective coffee cultivation and appropriate technology with regard to nursery and field management. Accordingly, Myitkyina Township (Kachin State) has already planted 535 acres during 2000. Also in Chin State, similar activities of UNDP and NATALA will be untertaken in February 2001. Private coffee growers have also planted approximately 1500 acres in Bantbwe (N.S.S.) and Mogok (Mandalay Division).

Over the next five years, Myanmar Farms Enterprises will be adopting a coffee expansion programme in line with the market oriented economic system. Authorities are choosing the potential coffee growing areas for the projects and sub-project areas (Table 4).

Table 4. Suitable areas for extension of coffee growing in Myanmar





Kachin State

Myitkyina, Waing Maw


Shan State (North)

Naung Cho Thibaw, Lashio, Kyaukme


Shan State (South)

Yak-Sank, Pindaya, Ywangan, Pinlang & Momeik


Kayin State



Mandalay Division

Pyin Oo Lwin, Mogok


Shan (East)

Kyaing Ton, Maing Sat, Maing Ton, Maing Yann

Areas which have been identified as potential project areas, that can be assisted by Department estates are Shan State, Mandalay Division, Karen State. Sub-project areas are: Sagaing Division, Kachin State, Bago Division, Rakhine State.

The programme for annual extended coffee cultivation area for next five years period are as follows:


Yearly plan (acres)











The future plan for coffee development in Myanmar is being established with the following objectives:

1. to produce high-standard Specialty coffee for export;

2. to create a favourable investment environment in coffee plantation sector;

3. to encourage both small holders and private investment in coffee growing.

Myanmar Farms Enterprises, being a commercial enterprise, will adopt and follow the following strategies to further coffee development in Myanmar:

Nursery practices and distribution

So far, nurseries have been established at the six base stations of state owned Coffee Estates. The total holding was currently 2,140,314 coffee seedlings. Both potted seedlings and bare-root seedlings are produced and sold at 22/- kyats each, although departments have free issues.

The varieties for distribution are:


Ctm (7963) from




















Blue Mountain (Var)




SL 28 & SL 34




The use of shade trees is essential for the seedlings to survive the dry hot season (six months-from December to May). To reduce potential losses, our stations distribute 100,000 plants such as Dadap (Erythrina lithosperma) and Silver Oak (Grevillea robusta).

Harvesting processing and marketing

Processing of coffee is usually by the dry method; the wet method is only utilized in State Coffee Farms. Myanmar Farms Enterprises (Coffee Division) is assisting the local growers with processing using hand pulpers (Drum type) and the wet method.

Coffee is bought in one of two forms by the coffee department-fully ripe cherry and cured beans. The price is variable and depends on current market prices.

Field Practices

Seedling trees are planted in the following way:



spacing has been standardized as - 8' x 4' ft or 6' x 3' ft



single holes (2'x2'x2') and continuous trenching (2'x2'xL)



Pigeon Pea (Cajanus indicus) and Rice bean (Phasealus calcaratus) are common intercrops

Industry management

As mentioned above there are two coffee factories in Pyin Oo Lwin (Mandalay Division)-Roasted and Ground (R&G) Coffee Factory and the Instant Coffee Factory. The yearly production of existing coffee processing factories is shown in Table 5.

Table 5. Yearly production figures for existing coffee processing factories (lbs)


Type of Coffee



2000-2001 (Nov. 30)


Pure Coffee Powder





Roasted Beans





French Coffee








Instant Coffee



93850 sachets


Mix Instant Tea Mix




ASEAN and Myanmar Coffee

Myanmar has now two year’s experience as an ASEAN member country and Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation is participating in implementing the ASEAN Cooperation and Joint Approaches in Agriculture and Forest Products Promotion Scheme. The first meeting of national focal points working group on coffee of the Joint Committee on ASEAN Cooperation and Joint Approaches in Agriculture and Forest Products Production Scheme has adopted the following strategies to promote the ASEAN Coffee Industry among member countries:

In line with the above strategies, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation has formulated a future plan to include this new organizational structure.


Myanmar Farms Enterprises (Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation) is striving to promote the coffee cultivation and production in Myanmar. On behalf of our participants and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, we sincerely thank FAO/RAP and the Royal Project Foundation for conducting such a valuable seminar. We also thank the authorities concerned in the Thai Government for assisting with our participation.

Organic/Specialty Coffee-the Indonesian Experience

By Win Wan Nur and Yahya Melala, D.I Aceh, Sumatera, Indonesia

In the Indonesian Special Province of Aceh, situated at the northwestern extreme of Sumatera Island, the Gayo farmers (indigenous Acehnese who inhabit the valleys of the Gayo Mountain Range) have been growing Arabica coffee for well over 100 years. The ‘Gayo Highlands’ constitute much of the mountainous interior of the Central Aceh District, where altitudes range from approximately 700 meters to 2500 meters above sea level. The town of Takengon is the administrative capital of Central Aceh District, which itself is further divided into eight administrative sub-districts. The sub-districts, which are listed as major coffee production areas include Bandar, Bukit, Timang Gajah, Silih Nara, Bebesen, Pegasing, Bintang and Linge. In 1989, the total area devoted to coffee production in Central Aceh District was 68,800 hectares, with the larger portion of this total area consisting of small, family run plantations or plots.


The first coffee plantations in Aceh were established by the Dutch Colonial Regime in the late nineteenth century. Shortly after Indonesian independence in 1949, the Gayo farmers took control of many of these former colonial plantations, and to this day they have continued to run them in a traditional manner. It is important to note that prior to the mid-1980s, all the coffee produced in the Gayo Highlands was grown without any chemical inputs whatsoever and this exceptionally fertile growing region could have been considered 100% Organic.

It was not until the Soeharto Regime solidified it’s influence over the entire Indonesian archipelago in the early to mid-1980s, that the widespread practice of government control began to affect coffee production in Central Aceh. During this time, the son-in-law of the acting Governor of Aceh Special Province was granted a virtual marketing monopoly by becoming the sole holder of a special license enabling his company to market and distribute chemical herbicides to agricultural producers throughout Aceh Special Province. Henceforth, it was pronounced that the intensive application of chemical herbicides was merely ‘a simple solution to control bothersome and unexpected weed growth’ in the coffee plantations of Aceh.

Fortunately, current use of such chemical based herbicides is estimated to be less than 10% of the total area planted with Arabica coffee. However, in the recent past (during the Soeharto Regime) it was quite commonplace for field data to be fabricated by the corrupt government bureaucracy, it is herewith suggested that in the name of accuracy, a new ‘herbicide and pesticide use field survey’ should be carried out in the near future.

Production and cultivars

Though some of the family-owned coffee plantations in Central Aceh cover as much as fifteen hectares, the average plot of land owned by each Gayonese mountain farmer amounts to less than two hectares. As a direct result of the ongoing national economic and political crises, many Indonesians have become jobless, the daily cost of living has become more expensive, and there are no new job opportunities to be found. Yet, in the Gayo Highlands of Central Aceh the devaluation of the Indonesian Rupiah has in effect come as a blessing in disguise for ethnic Gayo farmers. Arabica coffee is the primary export commodity produced throughout Central Aceh District, a commodity which is valued and sold, in United States dollars (USD). Therefore, an effective ‘monetary buffer’ has been established; one which affords Gayo farmers much higher levels of real income (especially when compared to the current national average).

Since 1997, higher levels of real income and savings amongst the farmers of the Gayo Mountain Range have fueled the ongoing rapid expansion of almost all Arabica coffee production areas throughout Central Aceh District. Early retirees and young people, who had previously focused their combined family efforts towards emigrating to urban centers throughout the archipelago (in search of better paying jobs), now prefer to stay in the highlands to either revive old coffee plots, or establish new ones.

Unfortunately as of 1990, both the local and the provincial governments in Aceh Special Province, have yet to compile any kind of an accurate database regarding the expansion of existing coffee plantations, and/or the establishment of new ones. It is estimated that during the past decade, the total area of coffee cultivation in the Gayo Highlands of Central Aceh District has been expanded by some 40-50% (an additional 25,000 to 30,000 hectares).

The large majority of Gayo coffee farmers still manage their small coffee plantations/plots in a very traditional manner (i.e. without chemical inputs). The only fertilizer they apply consists of the decomposed waste and skins of the ripe coffee beans, which tend to accumulate following the annual harvest (October to February). The physical removal of this particular waste material, or agricultural byproduct, is becoming a major problem throughout the Gayo Highland Region, as there is no formal effort for collection and/or composting and disposal.

Waste materials continue to consume far too much production space, to the point where it is now commonplace for a land area which was once capable of supporting 5000 coffee trees, to have as few as 1500 productive trees! This land-to-tree productivity ratio problem is compounded by the fact that most of the older coffee plantations in the region have yet to be replanted with newer, more productive species of coffee trees. The latter drawback has resulted in a further drop in overall production capacity; particularly on those older and more established coffee plantations dating back to the colonial era, which are located in and around the town of Takengon. The current, total annual Arabica coffee harvest in the Gayo Highlands is far from optimal, with only 50,000 MT being produced from a total land area of 68,000 hectares.

At the present time, the most popular coffee variety grown by the Gayo farmers of Central Aceh is called Catimor, which is a hybrid variety, derived from a cross between the Red Caturra and Hibrido de Timor varieties. Hibrido de Timor is famous for it's resistance to the leaf rust disease; a disease which spread through most of the colonial coffee plantations in Indonesia during the early part of the 20th century. The major drawback of the Hibrido de Timor variety is the low yields and relatively tall growth, making it somewhat difficult to harvest. In contrast, the red Caturra variety grows on smaller/shorter trees and offers an exceptionally high yield. Therefore, the crossing of these two breeds offers local Gayo farmers an ideal low maintenance and high yield variety of coffee tree.

There are numerous selections of the Catimor hybrid in Indonesia. Some of these hybrids were developed in a government-run coffee research centres in the province of East Java, but they are not overly popular in Takengon. The most popular Catimor variety grown in the Gayo Highlands of Central Aceh District is called Catimor Jaluk; a naturally occurring hybrid variety which originated from a local Gayo Higland plantation. This crossbreed of Hibrido de Timor and Red Caturra, is well suited to the growing conditions in the Gayo Highlands. Today, almost all of the newly established, or replanted coffee plantations in the region are planted with the Catimor Jaluk hybrid variety.

According to the coffee production data compiled by AEKI (Indonesian Coffee Exporters Association) during the 1999/2000 period, Indonesia produced an estimated 432,000 metric tons of coffee, and only 15% (64,800 MT) of the total amount was Arabica. Therefore, it becomes clear that the Gayo Highland Region of Aceh Special Province produces well over 90% of Indonesia’s entire annual Arabica coffee harvest!

Unfortunately, during the 1980s, every single seaport in Aceh was shut down by the Soeharto Regime, and all of the major ethnic Chinese Indonesian coffee traders based in Sumatera were encouraged to run their operations from the city of Medan (the capital of neighboring North Sumatera Province). These drastic policy changes effectively terminated the link between the indigenous Acehnese Gayo Highland farmers and the international coffee market giving the Medan-based middlemen a virtual supply monopoly. Until the present time, most of the Arabica coffee produced in the Gayo Highland Region of Central Aceh District continues to be marketed as if originating from the smaller, less significant coffee production areas in North Sumatera Province (using brand names which correlate to the names of villages and districts in that province-Mandheling, Pawani, Sidikalang, Gunung Lintong etc). Such marketing practices are totally misleading.

Major Coffee Producing Regions in Indonesia




Share (%)

South Sumatera












North Sumatera




Establishment and management

In the Gayo mountains, the entire coffee farming process follows traditional practices. Seeds are obtained by manually selecting from the best, disease-free trees and sown on the land under a simple shade house that protects them from direct sunlight and rain. After two to three months the seeds will have germinated and the seedlings are ready to be transplanted into the nursery. At this stage there are two different methods commonly used. The first is to grow the plants directly in the ground with a 10 x 10 cm spacing. The second is to plant them directly into plastic bags. With both methods, the plants are sorted by the selective removal of disease ridden and double and/or bent-rooted seedlings prior to being placed in the nursery.

After three months in the nursery, the coffee plants are ready to be transplanted to the plantation. If using traditional varieties of shade tree, ensure that they have been planted four months previously so they will have grown to an adequate size by the time the coffee seedlings are planted. The most common variety of shade tree used in the Gayo Highlands is Lamtoro or Petai (Leucaena sp.) Shade trees are usually planted at a density of approximately 160 trees per hectare. During the past five years, the Takengon Coffee Research Center has promoted a new variety of fast growing shade tree (Leucaena pulverulenta) that can be planted at the same time as the coffee. In 1986 Indonesian coffee production was afflicted by an infestation of insects commonly called jumping fleas (Heteropsylla sp.), which attacked the shade trees. L. pulverulenta is relatively resistant to this particular insect pest.

The transplanting period is the most critical in the overall planting process, as the plants are still quite fragile at this early point in time. The current literature in Indonesia recommends that with Arabica coffee a density of only 1500 trees per hectare is desired. However, this may be somewhat out of date. New varieties of coffee make densities of up to 5000 trees per hectare possible. For example, with the Catimor Jaluk variety, a density of 10,000 trees per hectare is possible for the first two or three harvests (with the trees producing berries just 18 months after planting). However, following the second or third harvest, almost 75% of these young trees must be removed to allow for proper growth of the remainder.

The management and maintenance of plantations are by natural or traditional methods. Most plots are cleared by hand, using traditional hand tools; although some now use motorised weed trimmers and chemical herbicides. The weeds need to be cut every two months and cleared from around the trees about every four months. Some farmers take extra care and make an effort to prune the coffee plants as carefully as possible allowing the sunlight to filter through and air to circulate around the plants. However, these farmers only make up about 25% of coffee farmers in the Gayo Highland Region. The majority of farmers simply trim off the upper branches to keep the trees short.

Harvesting and processing

Coffee is harvested by hand. Experienced, skillful coffee pickers can pick as much as 160-200 liters of fresh coffee berries in a day. Old coffee plantations yield around 600-800 kg of beans per hectare annually, whereas those planted with the Catimor Jaluk variety produce annual yields of approximately three tonnes per hectare. Some farmers sell their cherries to local collectors, who then process them. Other farmers process the beans into the silverskin form, by separating the red outer skin from the bean using simple, hand-powered equipment.

At harvest time, the fresh cherry has a moisture content of approximately 58-60%. After the red outer skin has been manually removed, the beans are dried until their moisture content has been reduced to approximately 53-55%. Following this, the beans are sold to a local collector, who then further processes the beans (removal of the silverskin) which is done in one of two ways. The most common method is to process the beans in a mechanical huller machine. The second method is to dry the silverskin beans until it's moisture content has been reduced to 30% resulting in a bean on which the tissue cover has shriveled away. Beans that have been processed in this manner are locally referred to as ‘Grade Super’. This method is rarely used, as it is not very cost effective.

Once the silverskin has been separated from the beans, they are then sun-dried until their moisture content is no more than 22%. Following this stage of processing, they are then ready to be sold to coffee traders. The traders transport the coffee to the coastal district of Bireun, where it is dried further (down to a moisture level of 13-15%) and sorted for defects. Once the desired moisture level has been achieved, the traders in Bireun sell the sorted beans to Medan-based coffee exporters who export the green beans under various misleading brand names, such as Mandheling, Pawani, Sidikalang, Gunung Lintong. In October 2000, a sorting machine was installed in the town of Takengon, giving local coffee traders the opportunity to sell their coffee beans in a pre-sorted form.

The methods, mentioned above, describe the dry processing as it is carried out by local Gayo farmers and traders. There is one government owned company, PT. Genap Mufakat, that prepares coffee for direct export using the wet processing method. PT. Genap Mufakat is a joint venture established in the mid-1980s between the Indonesian Government and a foreign partner, to process coffee from the Gayo Highland Region. It is the only company in Northern Sumatera with facilities to produce high quality, washed coffee. It is also the only company in the region that conducts every stage of coffee processing from the initial separation, through to the production of powdered coffee. Although this same company also purchases Organic coffee from nearby farmers, it's processing capacity is not large enough to buy up the entire annual coffee harvest in Gayo Highlands.

Trading and marketing

The early 1990s saw a period of unparalleled growth and prosperity for most of Indonesia. During this time PT. Genap Mupakat was highly successful and considered a model exporter. However, poor management and excessive government involvement caused a major drop in overall product quality and the profitability of the company. Since then, a Dutch company, Holland Coffee, has bought into PT. Genap Mupakat and we are still waiting to see what effects that will have on the company.

As there is no other company based in Takengon, that can process coffee beans to meet international quality standards, the coffee farmers of the Gayo Highlands continue to be forced to sell their marketable commodity to major coffee traders in Medan who dominate the agricultural commodities trading network in Sumatera. This has resulted in Gayo Highland coffees being marketed internationally under various misleading brand names (see above).

In the past, one of the biggest problems with Sumateran coffees has been the inconsistency of quality. This problem is caused entirely by the Medan-based coffee traders and exporters, who have succeeded in maintaining a virtual monopoly over the coffee collection, processing and marketing system. This system is purely based upon their ability to obtain maximum short term profits as opposed to striving to maintain the overall quality of the coffee product. Such traders ans exporters do not want to have any local competitors who might threaten their stranglehold on the coffee trading business. Medan traders are not concerned if the quality of their product is low so long as they can make a large profit on a low quality product. They will mix together a low quality product with a high quality one in an attempt to increase volumes and profits.

As the situation now stands in Sumatera, the ‘low quality option’ is far more attractive to Medan traders as it gives them a higher rate of financial return. Quality consistency problems are compounded by the coffee bean grading system that is used by the local Aceh-based traders. In Takengon the beans are graded and valued according to size. Yet as we all know, the quality of the bean is not based only upon size, but rather, upon it’s taste, flavor, and aroma. It is very unusual for a trader (either, local, Medan-based or international) to purchase coffee according to the size of the bean.

Grading and quality control

The Indonesian Coffee Exporter Association (AEKI) actually has it's own system of coffee grading standards. These grading standards are in accordance with the Indonesian Quality Control System and are published in government quality control documents issued by PT. Sucofindo (the official government export inspection agency). This system is as ineffective as the size-based system being used locally as it based upon wastage (in other words the number of broken/defective beans per kilogram).

In the town of Takengon there are currently three levels of grading, namely, Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III. This type of grading is primarily based upon the size, the number of broken beans, and the percentage of extraneous matter, such as twigs, small stones, soil etc. The Gayo Highland Region has all the right conditions to produce very high quality Arabica coffee beans that are equivalent to Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, provided processing and quality control are strict and consistent.

If we take a close look at all the climatic and soil conditions needed to produce high quality green beans, we find that they all exist in the Gayo Mountains of Central Aceh. To produce high quality coffee beans, an average temperature of 16-20°C, a relative humidity of 75-95%, an annual precipitation of 2000-3000 mm and nutrient rich volcanic soil are required. All of these conditions exist in the Gayo Highlands of Central Aceh. Most coffee plantations in this region are located over 1000 meters above sea level. In fact, all that needs to be done is to convince local Gayonese coffee farmers that properly managed, high quality coffee plantations can be more profitable. To achieve this we need to revolutionize the grading systems currently being used. An altitude-based grading system would be a much more effective option. At higher altitudes, the coffee berry takes longer to ripen, and results in a better tasting coffee bean. These high altitude coffee beans would attain a higher price on the world market as they are of a better quality and thus be of more value to the end user. An altitude-based sorting and valuing system would be a vast improvement over the systems currently being used in Takengon.

Currently, Gayo Highland Coffee is already gaining a name for itself on the international coffee market as one of the more full-bodied coffees in the world. It has a low acidity level, with a caffeine content of around 1.7-2.0%. The taste characteristics assessment by the 79 Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Company in the United States of coffee originating in the Gayo Highland Region of Central Aceh is shown below.

Organic Sumatran Reserve Waterbury, Vermont


: 7


: 6


: 6


: 6


: 8


: Takengon area, Aceh Province, Sumatera, Indonesia

In this presentation I have purposely not discussed the coffee roasting process, industry or market. It is our firm belief that the marketing of raw coffee beans has greater potential, and the high tech, sophisticated world of coffee roasting would only prove to be a complicated distraction for Aceh-based coffee producers at this point in time.

The key problem for Central Aceh's coffee producers is obviously the actual export marketing of the coffee. As there is very little direct access to the coffee producers themselves, the entire marketing system continues to be controlled by the major export commodity traders in Medan (North Sumatera Province). The strong negotiating position of the Medan traders allows them to obtain favorable pricing for themselves at the expense of both the Gayonese coffee farmers, and international buyers.

On behalf of the Gayonese people, Mr Yahya Melala and I thank you for your time and hope that there will be a follow-up to this meeting. We truly believe that the Gayo Highland Region of Central Aceh can produce a high quality, Organic Arabica coffee bean, enabling Asia to produce a premium Specialty coffee-a coffee which is ‘right up there’ with other Specialty coffees such as Hawaiian Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain.

We thank you for your kind attention and extend our most sincere gratitude to Dr Keith Chapman of the FAO and Dr Santhad Rojanasoonthan of the Royal Project Foundation, who were kind enough to invite us to this round table meeting.

Selecting and Screening Arabica Coffee for Rust Resistance

by Arporn Tummakate Royal Project Foundation, Thailand

In 1957, Department of Agriculture. Thailand brought in the seeds of Typica, Bourbon, Catuai and Mundo Novo Arabica coffee from Brazil. The seedlings were planted in the hill areas of the Departmental Experiment Stations. Then the seedlings were planted in farmer’s fields nearby the stations. Later, all Arabica Coffee trees became infected by leaf rust caused by Hemileia vastatrix B. & Br. Leaf rust surveys made in 1973, also found infected trees in Department Stations.

In 1974, the Royal Project Foundation received F2 generation seeds of 26 lines of Hibrido de Timor derivatives and Non-Hibrido de Timor derivatives of Arabica Coffee, through USDA. All these hybrids were bred for rust resistance by Centro de Investigacao das Ferrugens de Cafeeiro, Portugal. The Department of Agriculture was appointed by the Royal Project Foundation to study the possibility of growing Arabica Coffee to replace Opium poppy grown by hill tribes in the hill areas in the Northern provinces of Thailand. All Hibrido de Timor derivatives and Non-Hibrido de Timor derivative seedlings were planted in trial plots at three villages in the hill areas, where leaf rust was a serious problem. Mae Lord village was one among the three villages. It is now the Arabica Coffee Research Station of the Royal Project Foundation.

The selection of F2 generation trees in the plots was started in 1979 at Mae Lord village under suggestion of CIFC Portugal, by using phenotype of Caturra, that is a dwarf type productive tree as the model. Seeds from each selected tree were collected and sown separately in the seedbed. After 8-10 months, at least 400 seedlings from each selected tree of the 26 lines of hybrids were inoculated with uredospores of H. vastatrix Race II. The inoculated seedlings were incubated in a chamber at a temperature of 22 ± 2°C and relative humidity above 90% in darkness, for 18-20 hours. Then the inoculated seedlings were kept under nursery conditions for four weeks.

All inoculated seedlings were checked for rust resistance on the leaves. Susceptible seedlings were discarded, but the rust resistant seedlings were subjected to the same method of inoculation for the second time which resulted in after selection, only rust resistance seedlings.

One hundred F3 generation seedlings from each F2 generation tree of each line, were planted in blocks at different locations and different elevations for further selection. Now the selection and screening for rust resistance has come to the F5 generation seedlings from each F2 generation tree of each line. Again these seedlings were planted in blocks at different locations and different elevations for the further selection. All F5 generation trees are grown in the Arabica Coffee Research Station, Mae Lord Royal Project Foundation. F6 generation seeds were collected from F5 generation selected trees and seedlings prepared for inoculation in January to February, 2001.

Out of 26 lines of Hibrido de Timor derivatives and Non-Hibrido de Timor derivatives, only four lines are promising for rust resistance:

* Hibrido de Timor
Some of the F5 generation of selected trees of H. 420/9 and H. 528/46 have very little segregation for rust resistance. All these trees must be observed for production over at least four successive years and the beans must be tested for cup quality again. Cup quality of beans has been tested for every tree in every generation by reliable agencies. Cupping quality of the four (4) promising lines is high at 6.8 and any lines with a cupping quality of <6.3 are rejected.

Finally, the seeds of productive and rust resistant trees in the F6 generation of each hybrid will be sent to CIFC, Portugal, for checking the rust resistant genes.

The presentation provided many details of the selection process and the promising lines along with yield performance and cupping quality data.

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