K’Ho Coffee – an ethnic minority producing high quality Arabica coffee in Vietnam

There’s an ethnic minority group in Vietnam called the K’Ho (Cơ Ho or KoHo) people. They are the oldest ethnic group living in the Central Highlands region, very close to Da Lat in the Lam Dong province, where most of the Vietnamese coffee is produced. The K’Ho people used to be nomadic, but now they are settled and they grow coffee and rice for a living, together with producing some really nice handicrafts. The community has reached 200.000 members by now.

We’ve met Rolan Co Lieng and her husband Josh from K’Ho Coffee. Rolan comes from a tradition of coffee farmers from the indigenous K’Ho community. Her grand-grandfather, her grandfather and her father have been growing coffee, mostly for a living. She turned it into a business and a support for local community.

Josh is an American from Michigan. He used to work in his parents’ flowers farm, so dealing with farming is not a new thing for him. He and Rolan, together with other K’Ho members founded a cooperative in 2011 and dealing with coffee under the K’Ho Coffee brand ever since. They alone cultivate a 5 ha farm with Bourbon, Catura and Catimor plants. The coffee is organically grown and they make their own compost from pigs waste and coffee cherries. The compost is done by Rolan’s brother. Through organically grown coffee, along with agroforestry practices and ecologically friendly processing methods, they promote a sustainable supply chain.

They’re continuously planting and preserving their seeds. Josh showed me something really nice in the nursery: a Catimor root grafted with a Bourbon plant. They’re doing this because the Catimor root is resistant to the soil parasites. It’s not a known practice in Vietnam, but rather in Hawaii.

They have invested in processing facilities and drying beds and they support the K’Ho community by buying the cherries from them and processing them in their own facility. According to Josh, a total of 8 tons of coffee is processed yearly. The processing is done in three ways: washed, natural and honey. About half of the production goes to export as green beans in Japan and other countries and the other half is sold in Vietnam, mostly roasted.

Through direct trading they create employment for about 50 families, supporting the local economy.  The support to the community is given through sustainable prices paid to the farmers (higher than the fair trade ones), through education, training and everything needed for a better living.

Rolan and Josh built a café right in the heart of the farm. It’s literally between the coffee plants, behind the roastery and the wet mill and very close to the drying beds. The coffee they serve is, of course, grown, processed and roasted right in their facilities. I haven’t seen any better “farm to cup” scenario so far. The best part is that the brand K’Ho Coffee became famous and there are tourists that visit the café and the farm only because they’ve heard or read about it. You can enjoy a carefully prepared cup of coffee (espresso or pour over) while admiring the coffee trees and the mountains surrounding the café. What a lovely experience!

Because the new crop hasn’t been processed yet when I’ve been at the farm, we were promised a delivery to Thai Nguyen once the beans are ready. I am super curious to try their new crop because I was completely amazed by the coffee that I’ve had there, with flavors of caramel and dark chocolate. And the beans that I’ve bought for my Aeropress were absolutely fantastic. K’Ho Coffee constantly receive cupping scores from SCA in the range of specialty coffee: 84-89 points.

If you get to Da Lat, you should consider paying a visit to K’Ho Coffee. It is located in Bonneur’ C Village, 10 Kilometres north of Dalat and you an find the exact location of you search on Google Maps “K’Ho Coffee Lang Biang“. The family house is opened for tours and coffee tastings. You can drop by and try a good cup of coffee or buy some nicely worked handicrafts. They organise farm tours and you can learn what a “farm to cup” coffee means.

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