Myanmar coffee - The Beaujolais noveau of the east

The 2018 coffee crop from Myanmar arrived in London last week and here in Jersey a few days later. It’s always exciting when the coffee you’ve seen earlier in the year growing on a coffee plant finally ends up in your cup. When we opened the sack of green coffee we were blown away by the “fresh off the farm” smell, truly glorious.

I visited Myanmar in February 2018 and discovered a really interesting country with a lot of historical baggage but with a bright future if only the rest of the world would stop interfering. In my book “trade and aid, the politics of coffee” I’ve tried to give some insight into what I saw without the filter of a global media. There are major problems not least of which is a resolution to the Rohingya crisis, however the democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi needs to be given some space to allow her fledgling Government to establish itself after decades of ruinous military rule.

The coffee itself is really interesting as it’s the first time we’ve been offered coffee from a single origin processed using three different methods, namely washed, honey and natural. The care and attention to detail in the processing is extremely high and the resultant coffee is up there with the best in the world.

Within the coffee industry the different approaches to processing the coffee cherry are very familiar however it’s something quite new for the majority of coffee consumers. In broad brush terms, a washed process coffee will deliver a clean bright cup; honey process whereby the mucilage (sticky stuff left on the bean after it has been pulped) is left to dry into the coffee gives a few more fruity notes; natural process simply dries the whole cherry which is then hulled giving a super fruity flavour. Apart from the degree of roast (light, medium or dark), how the coffee is processed is the next most important factor in determining flavour. I’m ignoring brewing methods here.

Whilst cupping the coffee at the Mandalay Coffee Group (MCG) processing plant I was very struck at how different the natural processed coffees were. They had a real wow factor. We’ve been fortunate to get hold of coffee grown on the Blue Mountain Estate owned by Kyaw Htwe Naimg and processed by MCG. I’ve selected a natural processed coffee which contrasts with our washed offers from Central America.

If you’ve never tried this origin before it’s worth giving this coffee a go. You might even like to buy the book to go with it!

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