Origin

Myanmar’s coffee industry has catapulted onto the global stage over the past few years through a cooperative effort by the Myanmar Agriculture Department, USAid, CQI and the country’s hard working coffee farmers. What began as a fledgling industry a hundred years ago when British missionaries brought the first coffee plants from Costa Rica, has grown into a deliciously productive industry. OGS works closely with Myanmar’s finest specialty bean producers to supply roasters with product that they can proudly serve to their sophisticated clientele.

Myanmar borders India, Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal in the west. In the east Myanmar neighbors China, Laos and Thailand. In the north Myanmar meets the Himalayan Mountains, and in the south the Andaman Sea. A more diverse set of neighbors few countries can boast having.

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Brief History of Coffee in Myanmar

1885: Missionaries initiated coffee growing in Myanmar

1936: Myanmar exported a total of 95 tons of coffee

1952: S 795 variety introduced near Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Division

1986: Government of Myanmar (GOM) commenced a major nation-wide coffee planting program. Catimor and Catuai seeds imported introduced from Costa Rica

2015: Myanmar hosts National Cupping with help from SCAA, CQI, Winrock and USAid. Processing quality improvements realized.

2016: Myanmar coffee is introduced to the United States at the SCAA Expo in Atlanta

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Myanmar Coffee Environment

To grow and produce good quality coffee several important environmental factors need to be taken into account. These include elevation and temperature, rainfall and water supply, soil, aspect and slope.  According to the FAO, Northern Myanmar has the potential to produce large amounts of high quality Arabica coffee by virtue of their good quality, red soil plateaus and other suitable soils, at elevations above 3300 ft (1000m), with well distributed rainfall of 59 to 79 inches (1500 to 2500 mm) and a distinctive, essential dry season.

Elevation

Elevation influences a number key environmental factors and must be considered along with temperature, rainfall and water supply, soil, slope and aspect when determining ideal coffee growing locations.
An elevation greater than 1000m above sea level is required for Arabica coffee. Low elevation Arabica coffee does not possess the quality required by the world markets. Coffee plantations and micro-lot farms in Myanmar are generally located between 1100m to 2200m. In some remote parts of the country in places like Chin and Kachin coffee is grown as high as 2800m.

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Temperature

Arabica coffee prefers a cool temperature with an optimum daily temperature of 68° to 75°F (20° to 24°C). The average mean temperatures for Pyin Oo Lwin is 67.5°F (19.7°C). Temperatures greater than 86°F (30°C) cause plant stress leading to a cessation of photosynthesis. Mean temperatures of less than 59°F (15°C), limit plant growth and are considered suboptimal. As Arabica coffee is susceptible to frost damage, use of shade trees will reduce the incidence.

Myanmar’s Rainfall and Water Supply

Ideal rainfall for Arabica coffee is greater than 47 to 60 inches (1200 to 1500 mm) per year. Both the total amount and the distribution pattern are important. Annual rainfall at Pyin Oo Lwin is 55 inches (1400 mm).

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Shade Trees

Silver oaks are commonly used as shade trees on Myanmar coffee plantations. Silver oak serves several key purposes in addition to being optimal windbreaks. Shade from the silver oaks protect young coffee plants from drought stress and over exposure to sun. Shade also promotes a better balance between flowering and growth resulting in better cherry production, as well as reduces the incidence of frost. Additionally, silver oak contributes significant amounts of micronutrients that contribute substantially to soil health by providing organic matter and nutrients from leaf fall and pruning.

Varietals

Numerous varieties are currently being cultivated and tested in nurseries in Myanmar’s key coffee growing regions. The dominant varieties currently being grown and harvested include: SL-34, S795, Catuai, and T8667

T8667

Origin:                                Costa Rica

Growth Habit:                     Short

Cupping Quality:                Good, herbal and fruit rind flavors

Comment:                           Large fruits and seeds

S795

Origin:                                India

Growth Habit:                    Tall, upright and open

Cupping Quality:                Known for good balance and subtle mocca flavor notes

Comment:                          Large bean size

Catuai

Origin:                                Brazil (cross between Mundo Novo and Cattura)

Growth Habit:                     Short, dwarfish plants

Cupping Quality:                Good quality, and bean size

Comment:                           High-yielding plant

SL-34

Origin:                                Kenya (French Mission selection)

Growth Habit:                     Tall, upright and open

Cupping Quality:                Known for savory-sweet flavors, full body, and complex acidity

Comment:                           Large bean size

The People

Myanmar coffee growing regions are hilly and tribal. The people who work the farms live in and work the same hills that their ancestors did before them. Thus they possess an innate knowledge of the land, and how to achieve the best growing results. Burmese are friendly and outgoing, and generally consider the pagoda to be the cultural center of traditional village life.

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No Chemicals or Pesticides

Myanmar coffee is chemical and pesticide free. Farmers use natural fertilizers from cows and chickens with an eye towards maintaining the sustainability of the land. This is particularly evident in the Southern Shan State where chemicals and pesticides are strictly forbidden.