Dream of specialty coffee in the middle of Dien Bien village

25/07/2022

TTO -Tools on hands with a bright smile on her lips, Ms. Tong Thi Hoai (Na Luong village, Ang Nua, Muong Ang, Dien Bien) is the head of a local coffee brand with a decision to focus on turning coffee beans into international specialties.

Chi Em Coffee group member confidently stood in coffee mode at the recent product launch – Photo: XUAN TONG

These days, people will also find Ms. Hoai always roasting, and packaging products with the Chi Em Coffee group – a common model of four sisters of Thai descent working together in the countryside.

The group aims to turn their native Arabica coffee beans into a product serving the highest segment of the market – specialty coffee.

Whenever mentioning the coffee tree in her hometown, Hoai’s voice is different from her usual shyness, because she has been following Arabica for nearly 25 years – from the age of 16, 17, she followed her parents to take care of the coffee fields.

When she got married, she also took over 1.5 hectares of coffee from her husband’s family. In the years 2002-2003 when the couple had nothing in hand, Hoai worked as a hired laborer for the coffee garden of the Kinh people next door, both to get money to cover and to learn from experience to take care of his plants.

“At that time, I only worked as a hired worker and received 10,000 VND a day, both to feed my children and buy fertilizer to take care of coffee trees,” she recalls.

After several years of trial and error, Hoai finally understood how to intercrop shade trees for healthy, fruit-laden coffee roots. But the precariousness has not ended – without mastering processing techniques, she and other farmers still receive all the bitter fruits of the agricultural product value chain.

Due to a lack of capital and technology, Muong Ang people are still used to selling fresh fruit – the most basic product, without processing, making them often pressured by traders, and unable to cover production costs. Paddy coffee – which has been fermented and dried – has better profits, but the cost of investing in machinery and equipment is too large.

Facing a dilemma, many households are no longer interested in having to cut down thousands of hectares of coffee trees and switch to short-term crops such as corn, cassava, and passion fruit.

However, Ms. Hoai is still determined to keep the family coffee garden, working hard to make a profit. When she received an invitation to participate in CARE international’s agricultural production and consumption improvement project in Vietnam, she nodded immediately.

“At that time, the CARE officer asked me if I was passionate about coffee? Did I decide to do it? I just replied: We decided to work, decided to live with coffee”, Hoai said.

By July 2019, the Sister Coffee group was born, with four households contributing, along with a set of machinery and technology funded by the Australian Government. For the first time taking on a whole production chain from harvesting, fermenting, and drying to roasting, the participating sisters could not help but be overwhelmed.

However, thanks to taking part in technical instruction classes in Hanoi as well as after visiting the Arabica coffee plantation in Lam Dong, Hoai and his members gradually became more confident.

By last May, the group’s first coffee packages were officially launched in a solemn but cozy ceremony in Hoai’s courtyard.

The members of the group, dressed in Thai clothes with their hair in a bun, took turns making coffee with a large espresso machine, which is only found in high-class coffee shops in the city.

The silver coffee packages are also labeled “specialty coffee” – the premium coffee segment that the group is targeting. Served hundreds of glasses in the morning for guests, but no one complained of being tired.

Having the product in hand is only the first step. Hoai and her sisters are cherishing other plans, from opening a homestay to experience coffee for tourists, registering as a local representative product in the national OCOP program, or expanding a coffee purchasing program coffee to “satellite” households in the village to pull them up the value chain ladder. The group is also rushing to prepare to bring the product to the Vietnam specialty coffee competition next year.

Source: Tuoi tre

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