Mae Kha Jan is located in Chiang Rai Province of Northern Thailand. Smallholder producers grow coffee in Chiang Rai’s high mountains and begin processing the coffee on their own farms, where they depulp, wet ferment for 12-24 hours, and fully wash the coffee. Most farmers dry their coffee on raised bamboo beds, others on patios, for 15–20 days.
Coffee farmers in Chiang Rai, on average, are 25-35 years old. Coffee farms in Thailand are accessible and coffee farming is profitable, making it an attractive business for young entrepreneurs. This is possible due to the history of coffee farming in Thailand, which began with an opium eradication project begun by the King of Thailand in the 1970’s. Efforts to reforest degraded land and introduce coffee and other crops to replace illicit cultivations proved extremely successful. Farmers’ mountain properties are thriving, with many of the original planted varieties—like Catuai, Typica, and local Chiang Mai which is a cross between SL-28, Caturra, and Timor hybrid—thriving in healthy production.
After farmers complete the first processing stages, coffee parchment is taken from farms to the Beanspire mill in Mae Kha Jan. The mill is one of the most advanced in Thailand, with a destoner, huller, and a gravity table for density sorting. Beanspire’s co-founders, Fuadi Pitswan and Jane Kittiratanapaiboon, are also part of the young generation moving the Thai coffee industry forward. They have built Beanspire to produce quality from the outset, passing all coffee through density and hand sorting multiple times to ensure quality and uniformity. Coffee is packed in triple layer bags for shipment: cotton bag as outer layer, High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) as middle layer, and GrainPro as inner layer. The HDPE bags help maintain moisture content, thus preserving quality for longer.
In addition to expertly growing specialty coffee, Thailand has a vibrant café and roasting scene. Thai cities are full of specialty coffee shops serving up the best coffee grown in country. Producers drink their own coffee, know how to make pour overs and lattes, and are excited to learn how roasters around the world will serve and share their coffee. Thai coffee is an all around success story, and continued coffee agriculture in the north ensures a sustainable future where crops continue to afford farmers fair livelihoods without the risk of violence. Community lots such as this one offer a collective benefit to the producers of Mae Kha Jan and Chiang Rai.
More about specialty coffee production in Thailand.