Wednesday was a travel day for our group. After spending the first 2 days in Pyin Oo Lwin, it was time to head to the highlands of Shan state. Myanmar has many different microclimates and the weather changed quite a bit on our drive. It is still 2 months until raining season begins and much of the drive was very brown. It will look very differently in May. It took us 7 hours to make the trip including a few stops to see some amazing heritage sites and pagodas.
Ywangan is home to many smallholders in the area. In 2013, there was a new emphasis brought to the area to try to increase quality and in return, a better price for their coffee. Traditionally, much of the coffee in the area was either consumed domestically or in China, neither bringing very high prices. Coffee has been grown in this area since 1890, after it was introduced by English Missionaries. There are dozens of small villages in the area and the Myanmar Coffee Association has begun to work with about 30 of them, representing over 400 smallholder farmers. Traditionally, the coffee is washed as each village has their own pulper. Winrock and USAID have helped set up a small cupping lab in Ywangan complete with a sample roaster and dehuller, where we will cup 14 different lots from different villages. Winrock also has a full time Q grader here training locals on technical and cupping skills. The goal is build a sustainable model locally.
We visited with Myanmar Coffee Association Vice Chairman, U Win Aung Kyaw at a local storage building where coffee is often stored before heading to the Mandalay Coffee Group to be dry hulled. The vice chairman was very grateful for the visit and is very encouraged by the improved quality they are seeing. They have doubled the prices that the local farmers are be paid to incentivize quality. He said they need to continue education and training but they are seeing an impact. Other small growers in the area are noticing the difference and want to be more involved with the association and Winrock. One of the bigger changes has been implementing some new ideas on the processing side. They have been doing some natural process coffees and the results seem encouraging.
After meeting with U Win Aung Kyaw, we met with Su Su Aung and many other smallholders, all women. She has been very active as a leader in the area since 2004-2005 when she began acting as a broker for the region and encouraging trade between the producers and China. Su Su Aung had a very impressive milling operation and some of the cleanest looking natural coffees you will see in any coffee producing countries. She has had training from Mario Fernadez and Marcelo Pereira, who is a Winrock employee and coffee veteran after stints in Costa Rica, Brazil, and Ethiopia. She is a role model for all the women producers in the region. Her production of naturals is small this year, 2,000 pounds, but she hopes for more next year.
Thursday we will begin to cup many coffees from the area and visit many local villages to see some production. More to come… #followthegoat
Buddha statues near Kyauk Se, Myanmar
U Win Aung Kyaw, vice chairman of Myanmar Coffee Association, Ywangan, Myanmar with Tyler ZImmer
Coffee buyers, Winrock International, USAID, Coffee Quality Institute,and Myanmar Coffee Assocation, Ywangan, Myanmar
Women producer group, Ywangan, Myanmar.
Also pictured, Craig Holt, Atlas Coffee Importers.
Su Su Aung(purple shirt), talking to the group and introducing other women producers
River valley between Kyauk Se and Ywangan