Doi Pangkhon has come a long way in a short time. We partnered with this farmer group in Chiang Rai in 2016 and already their coffee is sought after throughout the globe. While the coffee is still relatively new to the international market, the 300 Akha Hilltribe farmers at Doi Pangkhon (which means Timberland Peak) have been growing and milling coffee for almost 40 years in this area, respecting their old traditions and their natural environment.
What they only recently found out though, is that the mineral-rich soil and next-to-perfect growing conditions give not just their old varieties, but even their Catimor shrubs a surprising complexity and spicy punch. This sparked Ata and Pupae, brother and sister and third generation coffee growers, to actively seek the involvement of specialty buyers. Thanks to our exporter Beanspire, we started offering a small amount of Doi Pangkhon since 2016 and can now offer different processing styles as well. The 2017 Kenya washed coffee makes a beautiful cinnamon and chocolaty espresso and received acclaim from many return roasters.
Each farmer typically produces about 1-2 tons of parchment, but this year yield is down. Some farms are as low as 50% of last year's harvest. We are working with about 20 families from Doi Pangkhon now. Essentially, these are microlots grouped together. All of the villagers belong to Akha Hilltribe and they are very young for coffee farmers, 25-35 years old, mostly. This is something very unique about Thailand as an origin since it's an upper middle income country. It is a coffee growing industry that's actually working and attractive to the next generation, relative to other origins.
Red and yellow Catimor, Caturra, Bourbon and Typica
1,250 – 1,500 meters above sea level. Note that at 19 degrees north of the equator, this elevation is really high for coffee (e.g. Colombia Narino is 1 degree north, Nicaragua is about 13 degrees north.) Coffee cannot grow in Thailand above 1550m.
One of the first lots of coffees to ever get exported out of Doi Pangkhon in Chiang Rai province of Thailand, which has been growing coffee for almost 40 years. It is not uncommon to find young coffee farmers in Thailand because the local demand is strong and thus pushes up the domestic price. We work with farmers who are siblings, 30 and 26 years old.
2016: first sales of Doi Pangkhon coffee in Europe
2017: connected barista Rob Clarijs to Beanspire who will compete with Thai coffee in the New York Masters, bought 60% more coffee from Beanspire compared to the year before.
2018: Built a new, state of the art wet mill. Many roasters and traders went to visit Ata and Pupae, their coffee popularity has reached a tipping point as most of it sold out before it arrived in Europe.
One of only a few groups in Thailand to employ a Kenya-style washed, double fermentation: all coffee is hand picked, depulped, dry fermented for 12 hours, wet fermented for 18 hours, washed with mountain water, then sun dried on raised bamboo beds.
PRICE BREAKDOWN (EUR/KG)
€ 10,12 =
the price you pay for Pangkhon (honey and natural) p/kg.
€ 5,08 +
the price Beanspire pays farmers in Doi Pangkhon cash in hand for their parchment coffee (translated into a p/kg green price). This price is much higher than our African or South American offerings, showing the relatively high development level of Thailand, and the strength of its local coffee market.
€ 0,89 +
dry-milling costs accrued by Beanspire.
€ 0,45 + € 0,25 +
sea freight from Bangkok to Rotterdam + clearance, local transport and storage.
Beanspire margin and expense coverage. Costs coordinating the wet- and dry milling, export and shipping processes.
This Side Up compensation for spending time and resources importing this coffee. Our work includes building relationships with shipping and warehousing partners, managing export, import and shipping bureaucracy, Q grading, sampling and jointly promoting this coffee with Beanspire Coffee, Ata and Pupae.
PRODUCTS CREATED BY DOI PANGKHON:
Doi Pangkhon Kenya washed: € 8,57
Doi Pangkhon honey washed: € 10,12
Doi Pangkhon natural: € 10,12
Doi Pangkhon cascara: € 9,87
Recommended Ikawa Profile
We like using our short TSU Washed 2 profile with high drop to highlight some sweet citrus along with the Pangkhon's typical, heavier spices and caramel sweetness. For the natural lot, use Sebastiaan Geistdorfer's profile for outrageously bold and fruity results.
You may use these images freely to promote Pangkhon among your customers. Please credit Beanspire if you do so.
Contact the producer
We communicate with Fuadi at Beanspire for all our practical dealings, but Ata and Pupae are more than willing to answer any questions you might have directly.
CONTACT Ata and Pupae Becheku / Fuadi Pitsuwan
TEL +6682 191 4473 / +6602 594 3231
Doi Pangkhon, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
Specialty Coffee from Thailand?
Thailand is not traditionally known as a specialty coffee producing country, yet it has been producing Arabica coffee since the early 80's. It started off as part of the Thai King’s opium eradication project. Because Arabica coffee thrives in a similar condition as opium, it was selected as a substituting crop against the cultivation of the illicit plant. Today, Thailand produces about 8,000 tons of Arabica coffee, mainly in the mountainous north of the country. On top of that, Thailand produces about ten times as much Robusta coffee, making it the third largest coffee producer in Asia. Thai specialty coffee is rarely seen in the top specialty roaster segment abroad. The main reasons for this are twofold. Thailand is a middle-income country and has a thriving local coffee market. That means relatively high production costs for a relatively undemanding coffee market.
Having said this, a strong specialty coffee segment is emerging. At least on the consumer side, the Third Wave is quite well established, with artisan roasters and cafés in Bangkok and Chang Mai. These roasters have recently begun to develop and buy local coffees too, not in the least because of import tariffs on foreign coffees. However, this scene is still very small and for now, hardly creates enough incentives for farmers to improve the quality of their coffee to specialty grade. So even though they have been doing a great job at pushing the limits of Thai coffee, the specialty coffee scene would be greatly aided with more specialty coffee knowledge and global integration.
Why We Care
This Side Up sees an important opportunity to showcase Thai coffee to the world's specialty coffee scene, not despite but precisely because of the higher production prices and living standards. Exposure to the specialty coffee phenomenon in relatively stable economies like Costa Rica and Panama has made them leaders in innovation, labour and environmental protection - and equally importantly, has made coffee farming, even on a micro-mill scale, lucrative for the next generation. On a larger scale, the gigantic coffee traders will eventually run out of cheap places to source bad coffee, and specialty coffee will surely continue to grow and disperse. These factors, in our view, mean that equality, quality focus and integration will slowly but inevitably become the future of the entire coffee producing world.
As a global society, we should be getting used to consumer prices that reflect a higher level of country development and social justice. We therefore have the ambitious goal to demonstrate, however small we are, that by kickstarting an increase in exposure and quality investment, stable Thailand and its young generation of coffee entrepreneurs could enter into a race to the top, become a country known internationally for its superb coffees - and in time set an example for the entire Asian region.
Enter Beanspire, an exporting company made up of a group of young Thai specialty coffee enthusiasts who exist to provide a window for Thai specialty coffee smallholder farmers to the world. Their mission is much like that of This Side Up - but since they are mainly based in origin, our combined value was apparent from the start. Fuadi Pitsuwan was introduced to me by a mutual friend and tea expert, Janjarang Pat Kijitkhun and we quickly became sparring partners about the possibilities of Thai coffee in the European market. We decided to do a pilot project with the 2016 harvest aimed at attracting the interest not only adventurous roasters, but of other, larger importers as well.
Beanspire has been actively assisting the farming families of Doi Pangkhon to improve the quality of their coffee. For our "Pangkhon" microlot, we specifically work with two entrepreneurial siblings of the Becheku family from Akha hilltribe: Ata and Pupae. Ata is a 30-year old oldest of the three siblings whose entrepreneurial spirit and leadership is a force for change for his community. Pupae is Ata’s 26-year old sister, who had worked in both Korea and Taiwan, before returning home to Doi Pangkhon to help her brother produces coffee. Pupae speaks fluent Chinese and is also a Chinese language teacher at a local school. The young Bechekus are third generation coffee farmers at Doi Pangkhon, and they represent one of the most inspiring aspects of the Thai coffee scene. the future of the entire specialty industry around the world where farmers and their children are quitting coffee works for other more lucrative opportunities. These guys are returning home to work on coffee because they see a bright future in it and they are farming coffee by choice, not because they lack other opportunities.
Doi Pangkhon’s coffee farms, at 1250-1500 masl., contain Caturra, Catimor, Bourbon and Typica cultivars. Such a mixture of cultivars allows farmers to mitigate various risks. For example, Bourbon and Typica tend to be weaker plants and sometime come under attacks of left rust and other diseases, but great cupping potentials. Caturra and especially Catimor are more rust resistance and higher yield. Stunningly, because of the famously fragrant soil in the Chang Rai area, even these hybrid varieties are capable of producing complex, slightly fruity and prominently spicy cups.
Under the Bechekus’ direction, the majority of farmers at Doi Pangkhon (300 families) have switched to processing their coffee using a Kenya-style double washed method. This involves pulping coffee cherries at night and leaving the parchment to ferment in a tank without the use of water for one night. And then on the second night, the parchment is then fermented again, but this time by soaking it under water. This process is also known as a double fermentation washed method, commonly seen in Africa. The parchment is then dried on bamboo-raised beds until the right moisture content before getting hulled, size sorted, density sorted and hand sorted to remove all the defects. This unique processing is rarely seen in other coffee growing regions of Thailand and it results in a balanced and clean cup with mild acidity. Yet this is merely the beginning of the future of Thai coffee and coffee from Doi Pangkhon, This Side Up plans to continue working with this community to keep improving the quality of their coffee.
This is our second year working at Doi Pangkhon, and Beanspire's third. They have perfected their Kenya style double fermentation method and made an even cleaner cup, easily climbing a point on the SCA scale. A few farmers have also started to dry in a green house and we are building these green houses for more farmers next year. We are also proud to see that the farmers made some pretty impressive processing experiments: not just a beautiful and winey natural but a fruity honey and even some wine yeast fermented lots that will be used by Rob Clarijs when he competes in the New York Masters.
In the past years, we worked with each house individually on their wet processing and bought their parchment before hulling and grading at our mill. This year, Beanspire invested in a wet mill, operated by a few of our partner producers who're all family, so the coop and Beanspire had more control of the process. Beanspire is now also able to buy cherries from outside the family, expanding the possibilities for the village in the future.