Who We Are
We are a socially responsible cooperative made up of K'Ho cil families living at the foot of Lang Biang Mountain. The K'Ho people, or 'Montagnards', are an ethnic minority native to the forests of the Vietnamese Central Highlands. They are renowned for their skilled hand weaving. The K'ho have also nurtured heirloom Arabica trees, hard to find in Vietnam, since the 1860s. Rolan Co Lieng and Josh Guikema founded K'Ho Coffee to preserve not only the unique K'Ho culture, but the ecology of the Central Highlands through sustainable coffee production.
Our aim is to produce the highest quality Arabica green bean and roast on the market. We achieve this by sustainably growing our 100% Arabica varieties in fertile volcanic high-altitude soils. We harvest cherries by hand only at peak ripeness. After washing, they are dried on raised beds for consistent moisture content. At each step of the process, beans are graded by hand to maintain our high standards. Our close attention to quality also applies to our coffee farmers in the K'ho community. We work closely with farmers to continually improve the sustainability and quality of our coffee beans.
What is a 'socially responsible cooperative'?
A cooperative is an organization owned by the community for the benefit of the community. At K'Ho Coffee, K'Ho farmers are paid Fair Trade prices for their hand-picked cherries. After processing, the optimally dried, high-quality green bean is sold directly to local and foreign buyers. Profits from sale are then distributed to our K'ho members. For buyers interested in enjoying an aromatic cup of expertly roasted, ethically sourced coffee that directly supports the K'Ho ethnic minority, we also sell roasts under our own logo.
A Quick History of Coffee in Vietnam
Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, but historically hasn't grown or enjoyed drinking it much. The Vietnamese are traditionally tea drinkers, in fact some of the oldest tea trees in the world are found here. French colonists introduced and successfully grew heirloom Arabica from the 19th century onwards. War disrupted production, but 20 years ago it started up again and has proven to be an economic boon; in 1994, 60% of Vietnamese lived under the poverty line, and now less than 10% do. Much of this was thanks to the hardy Robusta coffee tree, a relation to the Arabica coffee tree. The Robusta tree is easier to grow at lower altitudes and produces larger beans with more caffeine, but have half of the chemicals that make up the complex flavor in a cup of brewed Arabica. Vietnamese manage the bitter taste of Robusta by adding condensed milk (ca phe sua da), or even eggs (ca phe trung). Coffee imbibers the world over may not know it, but they too mostly drink Robusta, in instant coffees.
Overall, coffee production has been good for Vietnam, but there have also been significant downsides: deforestation, soil exhaustion, and exploitation of minorities. We at K'Ho Coffee want to start afresh, by growing coffee in environmentally friendly ways, and putting the profits back in the hands of the growers.