It’s Picking Time for Lao Coffee Farmers

An Arabica coffee farmer needs to be patient to be profitable. It takes a tree four years to start producing cherries. The window for harvesting is between November and January, but optimal picking time can be as tight as a week.
With Arabica futures at a 10-year low, farmers must guarantee high quality organic coffee and top-notch processing to fetch the best price. Enter northern Laos’ Saffron Coffee.
On 21-22 November, Saffron hosted farmers from Luang Prabang’s Viengkham District and staff from the Department of Agriculture for “Seed to Cherry” coffee training.
“We hosted farmers at our processing facility for a couple of days to show them the journey of a coffee cherry through the washed process, to drying, to grading, sorting, roasting, packaging and ultimately, brewing,” explained Saffron Assistant Director Derek Smith.
Saffron calms farmers’ fears over their ability to sell their Arabica, while emphasising the importance of picking only the ripest cherries.
“Ripe cherries weigh more, so farmers get paid more per cherry, and the ripest cherries produce the best coffee in the cup,” said Mr Smith. Hence, holding off for a week or two until the cherries are at their peak takes patience for a cash-poor farmer. Mr Smith’s job is to convince them it’s well worth the wait.
“There are new coffee farmers, who we hope will plant thousands of coffee trees in the coming years, starting in June 2019,” Mr Smith said.
“While it will be at least four years before their trees will yield coffee, it’s important to teach good plot care and tree maintenance.” This takes building confidence, which Saffron’s staff does by sharing their time, showing they care, and making a great effort to get their coffee to market.
The new farmers at the “Seed to Cherry” coffee training also visited some farmers to share stories and witness first-hand the benefits of growing Arabica coffee with Saffron Coffee.
Visitors to Luang Prabang during harvest time can join an “Exclusive Guided Tasting” at Saffron Coffee’s Espresso, Brew Bar, and Roastery on the Mekong.
Saffron Coffee has also launched a “From Cherry to Cup” tour, during which they show the process to produce northern Laos’ best brew.