We got off to an early start, as we had to leave for the airport in Yangon to fly to Mandalay, the old capitol of Mynmar. It was about a 2 hour flight to Mandalay, in the center of the country. It is hot and dry this time of year, like Yangon, with raining season beginning in April and May. We had a 2 hour drive up some very windy roads to the Pyin Oo Lwin area.
As we made our way up the mountains, the temperatures cooled down but the landscape is still very dry this time of year. Our first stop was to the Mandalay Coffee Group and the Myanmar Coffee Association. The Mandalay Coffee Group is a group of local producers that received a grant from Winrock International to build a new wet mill and dry mill. It is state of the art and is among the nicest mills you will see in any coffee producing country. The wet mill has new fermentation tanks and most of the coffee is dried on concrete patios or raised beds. We had brief discussion there with many from the group. They were very enthusiastic about our visit.
From there we drive about 5 miles to visit our first farm of the trip, Shwe Pu Zun. As we drive up, we see very tall, skinny, evergreen like trees planted in between the rows of coffee. The trees are extremely shaded. We found out later that one reason the trees are so heavy is to keep the temperature of the farm more even since they have threat of frost in this area. They had a small wet mill where all the coffee is washed, some of demucilaged and some is pulped and goes through a 24 hour dry ferment before finishing the washing process. Shwe Pu Zun is about 100 acres planted in 2000-2002. It is mostly planted with Catimor, S795, and SL34. There are probably a few other varieties mixed in, but they are for the most part sorted when picked and processed. Their annual production was about 100,000 pounds grown at about 1050 meters above sea level.
The next farm we visited was about 40 acres and home to the 2nd place winner in the cupping competition last year, Sithar Farm. This farm is owned by Thu Zaw and his father in the law. The coffee is grown at about 1100 meters and is a mixture of SL34, Catimor, and S795. This year, they are expected to produce about 18,000 pounds of green coffee. They also have future plans to expand the farm.
Overall it was a great first day getting introduced to Pyin Oo Lwin. There is much excitement about the possibility for specialty coffee here, and they have taken many steps to begin improving the process. We will learn more today as we move through the first round of cuppings.
More to come, #followthegoat
This is a map of Shwe Pu Zun
Pickers at Shwe Pu Zun
Shwe Pu Zun Coffee Farm, Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar