Recently, Kaldi’s Coffee was honored to be asked to participate in the first ever organized coffee buying trip to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Located in southeast Asia, Myanmar borders India, China, and Thailand and has been producing coffee since the late 1800s.
Although Myanmar contains some prime growing regions, they have remained largely unknown to the specialty coffee industry. Controlled by successive military governments over the last 60 years, their industry was limited by self-imposed isolation. Over the last five years, Myanmar has transitioned towards democracy and open trade, and now their government is heavily interested in growing their burgeoning coffee industry and capitalizing on their potential for high quality Arabica coffee.
The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) invited Kaldi’s owner and green coffee buyer Tyler Zimmer to provide expertise and guidance, who will be among six other coffee professionals and one of the first buyers from North America to ever visit Myanmar. One of the main goals of this trip is to see how viable specialty coffee can be as an export. It is our hope that we can foster some new relationships and help Myanmar as an emerging economy realize some of their potential. The trip is being sponsored by USAID and Winrock. Winrock is a nonprofit, with one of their main goals being to increase economic opportunity in the developing world.
This trip carries extra meaning and significance to us. Coffee and people are our passion and this origin visit fully encompasses both. Three members of our production team came to us from Burma as political refugees starting in 2007. We have had the privilege and honor to work with them over the years, and this trip provides us with a chance to take it full circle. Their hard work has helped to make Kaldi’s what it is, and now Kaldi’s has been given the chance to give back to Myanmar.
Tyler will be visiting Mandalay on the trip and a few larger estates about 50 miles outside Mandalay in Pyin Oo Lwin. Here, he will meet with producers and evaluate this year's coffee. He will spend two total days visiting the area and then drive about five hours to Ywangan, in Shan state, where much of the coffee is produced by smallholders. He will meet with local coffee officials and cup coffees from the region, many of them being naturally processed.