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by Donald N. Schoenholt

& Fertilizer.">The Natural State of Coffee — A Contemplation of Grounds, Leaves & Fertilizer.

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

12_12 3-BI’m get­ting older. I paid $1.25 for a “nickel” Hershey Bar the other day. Things change. On the other hand, the $4.50 latte appears to be here to stay. Even in these hard times con­sumers, par­tic­u­larly the young, have deter­mined that they are will­ing to reach into their pock­ets for a bev­er­age that brings them joy. That too, is a har­bin­ger of good things to come for the roast­ing retailer and inde­pen­dent roaster, for our future is cheek-by-jowl linked to the con­sumers’ inter­est in the goods we make and sell. The econ­omy is still rough, and I keep find­ing myself remem­ber­ing my Dad talk­ing about the cof­fee busi­ness dur­ing the Great Depression when cof­fee sold for 25¢ a pound; 5¢ cup. The plain old nickel cup from the cor­ner news stand is now a buck. The Old Man would have found that funny.

A 36% decline in green cof­fee prices over the last 12 months has buoyed the spir­its of small inde­pen­dent roast­ers as the cost of raw goods has come back to earth, and accounts payables have come out of the stratos­phere to more man­age­able lev­els. As I write, the Exchange price for March 2013 is hov­er­ing at lev­els that most farm­ers and most roast­ers can accept as liv­able. The free flow of cash from inven­tory per­mits invest­ment in equip­ment, new prod­ucts, adver­tis­ing and per­son­nel that was unthink­able dur­ing the last 2 ½ years. It is a well-met asset thaw that bodes well for the future of the community.

There are new roast­ing busi­nesses in every nook and cranny of the coun­try. Recently an old cof­fee cur­mud­geon of my acquain­tance men­tioned that if you turn over a rock with your shoe there is a decent chance you will find a new roaster beneath it. There are many new entrants for sure, and this is a good and healthy thing. It indi­cates that there are folks who have the faith, nascent abil­ity, ded­i­ca­tion, and strength of pur­pose to make a place for them­selves in cof­fee. Where there is new blood, there is hope for the future of this stuff we love.

More and more tech­nol­ogy is creep­ing into the roast­ery. The roast­ing man is seen more and more often check­ing the progress of his roast on his iPad. Environmental man­age­ment of roast­ing bi-product appears to be taken seri­ously by a grow­ing num­ber of small roast­ers who have felt ambiva­lent in the past about the smoke, ash, and smells that are the byprod­uct of cof­fee roast­ing. This is as much a result of peer pres­sure, and con­sumer inter­ests as it is the result of munic­i­pal codes. It is good busi­ness to run a clean, envi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive busi­ness, and we are learn­ing that year-by-year, which is a good thing.

Espresso is an every­day thing in most parts of the USA now, and it is a rare roaster that does not blend and roast at least one item for espresso use. In an inter­est­ing devel­op­ment Robusta, shunned twenty years ago by any spe­cialty roaster worth his salt, has a grow­ing accep­tance now in Italian style espresso blends. Interestingly, the American style espres­sos are iden­ti­fied with pure Arabica blends. There was some talk a while back about the accep­tance of Robusta beans as spe­cialty cof­fee. That con­ver­sa­tion will con­tinue, and prob­a­bly get louder.

The mar­ket­ing of envi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity is seen in the choices many roast­ers are tak­ing in the way they present them­selves to their cus­tomers. Kraft paper and hand-crafted look­ing lam­i­nated valve bags and pack­ing mate­r­ial has grown in use, as it gives the impres­sion of cor­po­rate envi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity, small com­pany hand-crafted goods, and down-home neigh­bor­li­ness. Many of these efforts are suc­cess­ful. Sadly, few are more than window-dressing to improve the pub­lic accep­tance of goods offered for sale. Still, aware­ness of the public’s desire to seek out the goods of envi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive busi­nesses is a big step away from a cal­lus profit-driven inter­est and toward a higher plane of cof­fee consciousness.

The devel­op­ment of green cof­fee extract as an ingre­di­ent in food sup­ple­ments and bev­er­ages will be of con­tin­u­ing inter­est. This phe­nom­e­non of a weight loss ingre­di­ent hit the weight watch­ing scene back in April, when Dr. Oz intro­duced mil­lions of view­ers to it on his tele­vi­sion show. Green cof­fee bean extract, which seems to be pri­mar­ily chloro­genic acid and caf­feine, is now being mar­keted as a dietary sup­ple­ment by many food sup­ple­ment and nat­ural vit­a­min com­pa­nies. So far Starbucks is the only promi­nent roaster to have added cof­fee bean extract to its prod­uct mix. It is an ingre­di­ent in Starbucks’ new Refreshers bev­er­ages and in com­pli­men­tary VIA instant bev­er­age packets.

Roasters will be watch­ing more than their shades this com­ing year. Leaves are much on their minds also since Starbucks, owner of the Tazo tea brand since 1998, has opened a Tazo tea store in Seattle’s University Village shop­ping area. They fol­lowed this con­cept store with the announce­ment that Starbucks will acquire Teavana, Teavana’s 300 small shops spe­cial­ize in tea leafs, tea bev­er­ages, and tea acces­sories. The chain, sprin­kled in mostly mall loca­tions through­out much of the coun­try, expected to make $220–230 mil­lion dol­lars this fis­cal year. Nobody’s bet­ting like Mitt Romney on this, but my nickel is on Teavana out­lets becom­ing Tazo-branded stores before long. Some roast­ers have been offer­ing loose teas for years, while oth­ers offer only tea bags to their whole­sale cus­tomers. It is a fair guess that we are all going to be more inter­ested in teas of every type and descrip­tion in the com­ing year than we have been in the past year.

Among the rare and exotic items that may find its way into North American blends this year is Kopi Luwak, the ster­co­ra­ceous Indonesian cof­fee del­i­cacy that has been imi­tated in Peru and Vietnam after pro­duc­tion was juiced in recent years since being fea­tured in the 2007 film The Bucket List. The Indonesian item has taken a pub­lic rela­tions hit from the UK news­pa­per The Guardian, which reported on alle­ga­tions of ani­mal rights abuses at civet farms in Indonesia. Likewise, the Associated Press has made us aware of Thailand’s Black Ivory cof­fee (cul­ti­vated from ele­phant dung) that hits the fan this year. At $500 a pound, this exotic adds con­sid­er­ably to the avail­able vol­ume of this type of item which may put down­ward pres­sure on the pound price of this class of goods. I have not cupped Black Ivory, but I have pon­dered if it is good to the last dropping.

12_12 3-AAuthor and Roaster’s Guild founder, Donald Schoenholt, is said to have an unerr­ing sense of cof­fee, cof­fee his­tory, and cof­fee continuity—but no sense of humor. He will deny this. He believes he is quite droll. Mr. S., cel­e­brat­ing his 50th anniver­sary in cof­fee, can be found round the roast­ing room at
www.gilliescoffee.com.

Retailer Profile: From Thailand with Love

Categories: 2012, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

We have done café pro­files all over the U.S., and sev­eral in Peru and Russia. This month we are con­tin­u­ing our inter­na­tional explo­ration with the best in Thailand – get ready for Doichaang Coffee Shops to blow your mind away fel­low cof­fee freaks!

I had restau­rants and hotels, but I sold them all to go up to the moun­tains and work with cof­fee farm­ers 12 years ago,” – replied Wicha Promyong, the Doi Chaang Coffee Co.’s pres­i­dent, when I asked him how he got into the cof­fee business.

It seems like suc­cess inevitably fol­lows the foot­steps of a tal­ented busi­ness­man: Wicha sold every­thing to seek a quiet refuge in the Thai moun­tains, but 12 years later found him­self run­ning one the best cof­fee com­pa­nies in the coun­try. Wicha’s Doi Chaang now owns 20 cof­fee shops in Thailand, sup­plies cof­fee to 300 oth­ers, and his cof­fee con­sis­tently ranks among the top in the world.

Let’s talk to the man:

V. Many cafes in U.S. like to announce them­selves as being green and organic as soon as they receive the first deliv­ery of biodegrad­able cof­fee cups, but you guys are really tak­ing it all the way. Look at this jun­gle that you have built here: water­fall, gar­den with plants all over, and lots of organic prod­ucts for sale. This is a beau­ti­ful shop! What is its his­tory?
W. Thank you (smiles). Well, this is our very first shop that got opened 9 years ago. I opened it so that peo­ple could try our cof­fee and know how it tastes; how­ever, I have never pre­dicted such rapid growth and pop­u­lar­ity. A per­son would come in, try our cof­fee and tell 5 oth­ers – it is magic what word of mouth can do. As far as the design in this par­tic­u­lar shop I have used a tra­di­tional Thai style of build­ing that brings the nature inside and makes the atmos­phere really peaceful.

V. Could you tell our read­ers a bit about cof­fee cul­ture in Thailand – how did it progress over time?
W. In the old days in Thailand, peo­ple mostly drank instant cof­fee with con­densed milk. Then Starbucks came along and intro­duced the cul­ture of drink­ing fresh cof­fee, so now the major­ity of con­sumers turned to fresh brew. They know how to drink cof­fee, and instant cof­fee con­sump­tion has got­ten lower and lower espe­cially in the last 3 years.

V. How did you man­age to acquire enough exper­tise and knowl­edge to open up and oper­ate one of the best cof­fee shop chains in Thailand?
W. Simple. I just went around the world, looked at the way good shops were oper­ated, and drank cof­fee here and there slowly learn­ing day by day.

V. You have trav­eled the world exten­sively, what makes Doi Chaang cof­fee shops unique among oth­ers?
W. I think the biggest “unique” fac­tor for us is that 100% of the cof­fee in our cof­fee shops comes from our own plan­ta­tion in Doi Chang province. We sell only what we grow and process at the plan­ta­tion. However, because of that we have a lit­tle prob­lem now: our cof­fees are being sold really well, but the demand has got­ten too high. From Malaysia to Australia peo­ple are com­ing to us, but we don’t have cof­fee to sell because we sell only what we produce.

V. How is your com­pany plan­ning on resolv­ing this sit­u­a­tion?
W. We have expanded by 8000 acres in the Doi Chaang area, but we have to wait for another 3 years for the plants to suf­fi­ciently grow. In the future, we will be able to pro­duce about 2000 tons a year, so it’s just a mat­ter of time.

V. You have men­tioned that Starbucks con­tributed to cof­fee cul­ture progress in Thailand, but do you see more and more peo­ple choos­ing Doi Chaang cof­fee shops over Starbucks in Thailand?
W. You know yes, inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops are becom­ing much more pop­u­lar in Thailand, espe­cially with locals. They try our cof­fee once and always come back again. Maybe around 8 per­cent of our cus­tomers are for­eign­ers: the major­ity is still walk­ing the floors of Starbucks.

V. Wicha I think what you have man­aged to cre­ate with Doi Chaang Coffee Company is absolutely genius! What is the secret behind it?
W. I think the secret behind it all is – happy farm­ers. We pay them $1 per kilo of cher­ries! It used to be 12 to 15 cents per kilo before, and now it is $1. Plus our farm­ers col­lec­tively own 50% of the com­pany, so they receive part of the company’s prof­its in addi­tion to their sales. This is the way cof­fee busi­ness should be – not just one man mak­ing all the money – farm­ers should make good money too because they are the ones who produce.

V. Having done so much for the com­pany and the farm­ers, what is the biggest reward for you to be part of all this?
W. Maybe I am get­ting old, but I don’t need money any­more. The money that I make I use to build schools and hos­pi­tals. In this stage of my life, I am con­cerned about help­ing oth­ers to achieve their goals, and trav­el­ing the world to demon­strate that our model can be applied to any place around the world.

Doi Chaang Coffee Company

www.doichaangcoffee.com
Wicha Promyong
t: (+66) 86 071‑7403
miga@doichaangcoffee.com