Testing Processing Methods in Thailand

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We met the founders of specialty coffee exporting company Beanspire high up in the hills of Thailand’s Golden triangle. The Royal Family’s successful implementation of agricultural projects combined with the richness of the soil, has turned this area into one of the top Arabica coffee producing areas in Asia.

Jane and Fuadi set up Beanspire to assist Thai coffee famers in developing and exporting specialty coffee. They have made tremendous progress in improving the quality of the production and living standards in a short amount of time.

We visited the Doi Phangkon farm in Chiang Rai to learn more about their fast road to success. Fuadi has been encouraging the producers to test alternative processing methods, while guaranteeing a consistent price point, independent of the success. The results have been extraordinary and have made a significant improvement of the cupping score of many micro-lots.

Due to the abundance of water they are able to experiment with different washing processes, one highlight being the Kenyan washed/double washed. First of all, they load the beans in a fermentation tank and add wild yeast, giving the coffee a funky, playful profile. After 24 hours the beans are wet fermented for another 24 hours and then once more. The wet part evens out the fermentation and makes the coffee much more clean/stable. Ultimately, the coffee is then dried and rotated hourly on raised beds in the sun. This process is extremely clean and has a great blueberry sweetness. On top of that, the beans are much more resilient to weather and the results are very consistent.

Honey process, a processing style originated in Costa Rica, has been a great success in the region. Producing a jammy mouthfeel and blackberry tasting profile, it is something very different to what we’d expect from Thailand’s traditional flavour profiles. To achieve this, they have to take the cherry off and leave the sweet residue (mucilage) on the bean to dry on raised beds. This allows the sugars to ferment and often makes the beans stick together - reminiscent of honeycomb. In Doi Pangkhon, they are producing black honey, here the fermentation process is faster and more flamboyant, almost tasting like a natural, but cleaner.

Finally, ticking off all 3 processing methods, Doi Pangkhon also experiments with natural process, which is another processing method that requires no use of water. This year they selected their yellow Catamor varietal, leaving on the cherries and the stems to dry on beds. By leaving the stem on, it resulted in a much slower, controlled fermentation process. Spending more time encased within the cherry the bean takes on many characteristics of the cherry resulting in a rich, full bodied, cup with a pineapple-like flavour profile.