News from Da Lat where the coffee producers are thriving

Last year I first visited Da Lat to meet some coffee producers and make a farm trip to learn more about coffee processing, in general and Vietnamese Arabica coffee, in particular. After exactly one year, in December 2018 I returned to Da Lat to meet them again, but to see new producers as well and check the development of the coffee producing scene in the area.

This time I’ve made the trip with my friend Cuong, who’s running two successful coffee shops (Xuong Ca Phe and Chum Coffee) in Thai Nguyen City, located 70 km north of Hanoi, the place where I live now. Our passion for coffee and similar visions about its quality built a strong connection between us. More to come on this subject.

Cuong from Xuong Ca Phe
Me and Cuong in his coffee shop

So, what’s new in Da Lat? Mainly, the news is that the quality of the Arabica, as well as Robusta coffee is improving, one step at a time. The producers are working on more channels for improvement, but the most important things that I’ve noticed are education and harvesting / processing methods.

It was a great pleasure to meet again the team from The Married Beans and I was astonished by the way things moved in one year. When I’ve met them a year ago they said they want to build a new events room which will serve as a coffee shop as well. And events room they’ve built!

The Married Beans working space
The new working space @The Married Beans
The Married Beans working space

View from the new working space @The Married Beans
The Married Beans working space

Inside the new working space @The Married Beans

They will focus their efforts on education and, of course, on improving the quality of the beans. They are SCA members since already three years and they’ve just applied for the 2019 SCA Sustainability Award for Business Model category, which will take place in April. We wish them good luck!

The Married Beans, Mr Duy Ho
With Mr Duy Ho (middle) and my friend Cuong @The Married Beans

 The newly build space will serve as an academy where they want to organize as many events as possible related to art and coffee. In January 2019 they will organize a processing and roasting course in collaboration with their partner D’codeS Coffe and Lab from Hanoi. In the future, more courses will be organised in the new working space, as well as on the farms.

The Married Beans working space
Art Connects Us: nice panel inside the new working space @The Married Beans 
The Married Beans working space
The bar and the logo in the new working space @The Married Beans  
The Married Beans working space
Vintage Honda electric bike 
The Married Beans working space
The old space meets the new one 

This year The Married Beans cooperated with 60 farmers, a slight increase since last year’s crop. They intend to process around 200 t of coffee. Their export market also developed, working this year with countries as Japan, Korea,Germany, Greece and The Netherlands. Next year they will expand their cooperative,attracting more farmers, but the growing has to be organic in order not to lose the control of the quality. Because most of the trees in Da Lat are Catimor, it’s not possible to change the plants, but they can change the mentalities and teach the people that work with coffee how to do it better in order to improve its quality.  

The Married Beans working space
Coffee flavor wheel

The second producer that we visited again this year, LaViet, has also come a long way in improving the quality of their beans. As I was saying before, they’ve did this through innovative methods implemented in the fermentation process. They will go even further and will experiment three new methods:

La Viet Da Lat
La Viet’s outside panel

One of them is the yeast fermentation, as they already tested it on a 5 ha farm by injecting in the fermentation tanks yeast which is used in the wine fermentation process. They’ve got notable results with Catimor beans obtaining 84 points score in a blind cupping.

A second experiment will be fermentation with pineapple juice pectinase (which is a pectic enzyme).

The third experiment consists in vacuuming the natural cherries to create an anaerobic environment. They will test three ways of the vacuuming, keeping the cherries one, two and three days and check where is the best result.

I am eager to try these new, innovative methods and can’t wait to get some samples.

For natural processing, they are drying the cherries for 24h in the machines before sun-dry them. Because of the strong sun, the beans will start fermenting in the cherries before getting dried and this affects the taste. After testing, they find that they get better results with the machine drying.

La Viet Da Lat drying machine
Coffee cherries drying in the machine
La Viet Da Lat natural processed beans
Natural processed cherries drying outside after spending 24 h in the drying machine
La Viet Da Lat honey processed beans
Honey processed beans drying

They’ve got a new sorting machine from the rice sorting machines producer Sigur. The machine is produced on wheels for maximum mobility and will allow them to sort the beans on 5 different levels.

La Viet Dala Sigur sorting machine
The new Sigur coffee beans sorting machine

Aaah, and The Barn House for bbq and beer is open now.

La Viet Da Lat Barn House
The Barn House @La Viet
La Viet Coffee shop, Mr. Tran Nhat Quang

With Mr. Tran Nhat Quang  @La Viet coffee shop

It was lovely to meet these people again, to see that they are developing a lot and working hard to improve the quality of the Vietnamese coffee. I am proud to live here these days when they make a statement for the Vietnamese coffee beans and I am sure that they will go a long way.

Have you ever tried some coffee beans that were processed through a different than normal method? Please let me know in the comments section below.

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