Coffee Provides Alternative To Growing Opium For Thai Farmers

Thursday, November 10, 2011

  • Photo Credit: Planet Bean

    Photo Credit: Planet Bean

The “golden triangle” region in the mountains of northern Thailand has been a notorious area for growing poppies for opium production, but a new coffee offered by Planet Bean provides members of the Akha hilltribe an economic alternative to the drug trade. Doi Chaang Coffee, named after a northern Thai village of 10,000, is a new addition to Planet Bean's fairtrade certified organic coffee line.

“This is another amazing fairtrade success story,” comments Planet Bean's Bill Barrett. “The Akha began the transition to coffee growing about twenty years ago, but it wasn't until John Darch a retired Canadian mining executive got involved that they upped the quality of the coffee and built their capacity for export.”

Darch formed a Canadian based company that imports the coffee. Fifty percent of the company was given to the Akha of Doi Chaang which increases the economic benefit to the growers. The hilltribe has made amazing improvements in growing techniques, is diversifying its economy through other products like nuts, soap and honey, and is making community improvements like new schools, health services and roads.

Planet Bean has brought in an initial 1,000 pounds which are available in the Guelph based coffee roasting company's three coffee bars (downtown Guelph, Grange/Victoria and south Gordon Street). The coffee is a full bodied medium roast that has a nutty flavour. The coffee is “peaberry” which means that instead of two beans inside each coffee cherry there is only one. One bean per cherry translates into more work for the farmers but the peaberry commands a higher price because of its quality.

Planet Bean has been importing and roasting exclusively certified fairtrade and organic coffees in Guelph since 1997. Planet Bean was amongst the first fair trade certified companies in Canada and is owned and operated by the Sumac Community Worker Co-operative.

- Planet Bean

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