Back in November 2011, I spent 3 days with my MIM team researching and developing the business model to sell “Premium Coffee,” planted in the rural Laos in the area of “Bolaven Plateau,” to the potential market. To be honest, the main purpose of the aforementioned team research is to get done with the “Global Immersion” course and, yeah, MIM Degree! I don’t think any of us even thought or dreamed about walking around the real coffee farm or taking part in helping them out in product development by sharing the constructive ideas we got from the challenging case study at Global Immersion Class. Anyway, I made it just recently!
Since I work for the Thai Ministry of Commerce, I was assigned to participate in a government field trip to the coffee farm in the rural Thailand at the end of January 2012. The purpose of this field trip was to listen, educate, and create better understanding on GI product development. What is GIs? GIs is from “Geographical Indications,” which are place-based names that convey the geographical origin, as well as the cultural and historical identity, of agricultural products. To simplify, TEQUILA is a GI for liquor originating from the town of Tequila located in the state of Jalisco, Mexico where the liquor has been produced for over 200 years. Likewise, we are currently promoting “Doi Chang Coffee,” which planted in Chiang Rai, the northern Province of Thailand, to the international GI certification.
What is the specialty of “Doi Chaang Coffee?” Doi Chaang Coffee is a premium Arabica coffee. It is certified organic, shade grown, hand picked, fresh water washed, and sun dried. Each bean is hand sorted and freshly roasted to ensure the highest possible quality for each cup. Naturally low in Caffeine, it has a complex and flavorful profile that is enhanced and released through detailed cultivating, processing, and roasting methods.
The story of Doi Chaang coffee is also intriguing. “Doi Chaang” is the name of village of local ethnic groups, known as “hill tribes.” The hill tribes of the northern Thailand have faced extreme challenges in the past decades. They illegally cultivated opium poppies to generate income. The poverty of the hill tribes is further compounded by their cultural isolation, difficulty in attaining citizenship and land ownership. And lack of good access to education and other employment opportunity. These challenges are pretty much the same ideas as the ones that MIMers Class of 2011 learned from the Global Immersion Case (even that case happened in the rural Laos). However, “Doi Chaang Coffee” had the right solutions to solve problems and help uplift the hill tribes’ standard of living as a whole.
To be successful, marketing is as important as product quality. Just the premium quality beans from Doi Chaang would be nothing without the right markets and promotion. Fortunately, the Canadian banker from Vancouver BC, named John Darch, tasted Doi Chaang Coffee and was interested enough to team up with other Canadian investors and the hill tribes to establish “Doi Chaang Coffee Company,” as a 50-50 Joint Venture. The tribe’s coffee farmers, consisting of over 800 families, retain a 50% ownership in this company, and entirely own their Thai-based company.
Not only USDA organic and Fair Trade certified, Doi Chaang Coffee is now working towards “Beyond Fair Trade” principle. The Doi Chaang project represents part of an effort towards sustainable agricultural and development in northern Thailand to provide economic stability for the hill tribes. The robust marketing efforts of Doi Chaang Coffee of a premium quality product, as well as the retention of ownership by the Akha, indicate this project is better conceived and executed, and much more of a success.
There is no way that I can cover all the interesting stuff about Doi Chaang coffee in this blog. However, there are so many successful stories of Doi Chaang Coffee in the public websites to search for more information. Plus, particularly for the coffee tasters, the good news is you can purchase Doi Chaang Coffee products online (www.doichaangcoffee.com) with the available shipping options to North America, which will be directly shipped from the distribution center in Vancouver BC so, no worries, you can fully ensure the freshness and quality of your cup of coffee soon!
As a coffee lover, I can guarantee the high quality, great smell, and distinguished freshness of the cup of Doi Chaang Coffee. As a government officer, I am really happy to present and introduce this product to the international level and help them out as much as I could. As a Thai citizen, I am proud to have Doi Chaang Coffee as one of the most recommended products of Thailand! And, as a MIM alumnus, I am really glad to walk around the real coffee farm with a decent background and knowledge on coffee farming and sustainable development. Believe me, it is really wonderful when you can literally turn the texts into reality!
Namyard Nanta or Mao is an MIM Alumnus from Thailand who graduated in December 2011. She was an MIM ambassador from 2010-2011. She is currently working for the Department of Intellectual Property, Ministry of Commerce of the Kingdom of Thailand, as an International Trade Officer. Her work areas include both bilateral and multilateral relations, such as ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), Thailand-Australia and New Zealand, Thailand-China, and so on.