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 coffee and K'Ho tribespeople successfully grew heirloom Arabica from the 19th century onwards. War disrupted production and trade for about 20 years, but 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%. 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. Traditional Vietnamese coffee balances the bitter taste of Robusta by adding condensed milk (ca phe sua da), or even eggs (ca phe trung). Coffee drinkers the world over may not know it, but they too mostly drink Vietnamese 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 farmers. 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.
A 19th century Map of K'Ho villages in the territory surrounding Mt. Lang Biang.
Early 1900's era photo of Bonneur'C Village, a small farming community at the foothills of Lang Biang mountain.
Seeds of the first arabica coffee trees were introduced to Vietnam by French travelers. They were planted and tended to by K'Ho farmers on the fertile mountain slopes around Lang Biang Mountain from around 1900.
Coffee harvest. Lac Duong, Vietnam.
Coffee processed with traditional methods. Removing husk with a wooden mortar and pestle, then separating chaff parchment from the bean by winnowing.
Photo from 1955 of Mr. Brai and Mrs. Co Lieng at their family coffee farm in Bonneur' C Village at the base of Lang Biang Mountain.
Picture of a K'Ho ceremonial site in the 1960's, The mountain was used as a radar station during the war.
Coffee planting resumed in the 1980's-1990's.
Picture: Co Lieng's family farm, with original arabica trees, Bonneur'C Village, Lac Duong, Vietnam.
Coffee production grew significantly during the 1990's. As tourism in the area increased, Rolan Colieng (center) took the opportunity to start a family business selling locally made handicraft weavings from her community.
4th generation coffee farmer Rolan Co Lieng and husband Joshua Guikema founded K'Ho Coffee as a family enterprise offering fresh roasted, sustainably grown, specialty grade arabica coffee sourced directly from their community for local and international buyers.