Coffee from Myanmar still is a surprising guest on coffee menus in Europe. For us at 32cup, the origin definitely was a discovery! This regional Paduak selection can be an interesting blend component with its more herbal character of green tea that’s balanced out with chocolate, spice and nut notes.
Through national and international investment, the coffee sector in this Southeast Asian republic has seen rapid growth over recent years. As the country opened up gradually to the world, more coffee began to find its way out through export, international visitors and trade shows.
An origin to watch for the future!
Paduak – where the northern regions meet
The Paduak regional coffee is a selection from both Ywangan and Pyin Oo Lwin producing regions. Paduak refers to a locally growing flower. These coffee regions are roughly 100km apart and are divided by an administrative border. Pyin Oo Lwin is part of the Mandalay division; Ywangan lies in the Southern Shan division.
Pyin Oo Lwin
Coffee cultivation in the Pyin Oo Lwin region mainly takes place on private estates, usually between 80 to 160 hectares in size. These farms sit at altitudes around 1200-1300masl. Some of the farms have their own cherry processing setup. Others send their cherry to the central mill of the Mandalay Coffee Group (MCG) in Pyin Oo Lwin. Predominant varieties in this region are SL34, S795 and Costa Rica.
In Ywangan, producers are small-holder growers, operating coffee gardens of around 1 hectare. Predominant varieties are Catuai (80%), Caturra, S795, Costa Rica and San Ramon. Each village block collects its coffee and sends it to the MCG mill for processing. Next to coffee, these smallholders produce subsistence crops and tea on their land. The region is slightly higher than Pyin Oo Lwin, with average altitudes around 1,300-1,600masl. The terrain here is more mountainous and rugged than around Pyin Oo Lwin. Small-scale village agriculture, coffee blocks and native forest characterize the region.
These northern regions have ideal conditions for producing specialty coffee. The coffee plantations lie at altitude ranges from 1100 to 1600 meters above sea level. Rainfall is properly distributed throughout the year, with a marked dry season in December and January. The harvest season runs from December to April in Pyin Oo Lwin. In Southern Shan around Ywangan, most of the harvest ends in March.
The republic in Southeast Asia, formerly known as Burma, has been cultivating coffee since the end of the 19th century. Missionaries initially started coffee cultivation on the southern tongue of the nation, but this project was not a durable success. Commercial-scale production took off in the north under colonial rule in the 1930s, mainly around Pyin Oo Lwin and in the Shan state. The large plantations from the colonial period still continue production to the present day. Between the 60s and the 90s, the state took ownership of the former colonial plantations.
The government has always played an important role in shaping Myanmar’s coffee industry. Together with investment from foreign development organizations like Winrock and USAID, they laid out a large-scale plan to combat the poppy production. In the 80s, the UN joined in with a program in the Northern and Southern Shan state to replace poppies with coffee. The project was more or less successful. It largely defined how nowadays the smallholder coffee production in the Shan state looks like. Many households have 10 to 20 coffee trees in their garden. They collect the harvest on a village level and send it to a central mill for processing.
These crop replacement initiatives continued also in the 21st century, both from the private sector and the government. The Mandalay state saw big investments with NGO money. These investments focused on developing agriculture and the production of an exportable crop. Land purchases were subsidized, making it easy for locals to purchase cheap land. As a result, many new coffee plantations arose.
With the agricultural support they received, these new farms managed to place themselves in the specialty coffee niche, cultivating fine varieties like SL34, Catuai, Caturra, and so on. With on-site processing equipment and drying infrastructure, these smaller estates can produce their own interesting microlots. Farms and producers without their own infrastructure can send their cherry to the central washing station and dry mill of the Mandalay Coffee Group in Pyin Oo Lwin.