Coffee-producing regions: Mandalay District (especially around Pyin Oo Lwin Township) and Shan State (especially around Ywangan Township)
Typical harvest: Late November to March (winter/dry season in Myanmar)
Exporting period: April to October
Altitude: 1,000 masl to 1,500 masl
Main processing method: Dry Naturals. Due to the lack of access to water resources, producers’ training focused on Naturals. Estates have also started producing Fully Washed and Honeys to satisfy international demand
Main varieties: Catuaí and Catimor. There is also some SL28, SL34, S795 and Geisha
Average farm size: Smallholders in Shan State typically have between one and two acres of coffee planted in their backyards. In Mandalay, coffee farms start at five acres. Estates of the District have up to 400 acres
The New Kids on the Block
The largest country in Mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar (also known as Burma) is still unknown to many coffee drinkers as a producing country - even though coffee has been grown there since 1885
That’s because the history of specialty coffee in Myanmar is super new. And because of politics, which has hindered the country’s entry into the global market.
This project involved training in farming practices, processing techniques and quality control. It also helped to fund wet and dry mills with the necessary equipment to produce amazing coffee.
From Village Markets to Global Sales
Up until that point, farmers in Shan State would sell their beans (unsorted and depulped manually, using a pestle and mortar) in their villages. This was known as the “five-day market”.
In the five-day market, different villages would sell their goods on different days of the week. Local traders would go around the townships and buy anything from coffee to macadamia.
In the case of coffee, traders would cross the border to China and Thailand where the beans would be then sold again. Needless to say that prices for farmers were not very good.
Though the five-day market still happens, coffee farmers have improved their quality and have now got other channels to sell. And local cherry prices have skyrocketed, going from 300 Myanmar kyats per viss (1.63kg) in 2014 to 3,700 MMK per viss in 2023.
Knock Out Naturals With Spotless Processing
From a sensory perspective, what is it that makes Myanmar coffee unique? The answer is post-harvest.
Producers and processors have embraced CQI’s training to such a high level that Myanmar’s coffee has become truly unique. When it comes to processing, they produce extremely clean Naturals. Former CQI staff we spoke to compare them to Naturals from Panama.
Variety and terroir also play a role. The Catuaís
grown by most smallholders has good potential for quality. The harvest season is also dry and sunny, making the drying process easy.
Algrano and Myanmar
Algrano has been in contact with producer groups and exporters in Myanmar since 2021. They were onboarded to the platform after a request from the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property to help open markets for Myanmar coffee.
The Myanmar-Swiss Intellectual Property Project
(MYSIPP) started in 2020 to establish the region of Ywangan, Southern Shan State, as a geographical indication. The initiative has been on hold since 2021. Then, a military junta took control of the government.
Specialty coffee production is a heritage of Myanmar’s democratic period and continues to grow in the country despite recent troubles. Producers hope to carry on in this industry and haven’t stopped innovating. Selling coffee to roasters is another step in this big project.