With nearly 20,000 ha yielding 60,000 tonnes each year, Son La is currently one of the major Arabica coffee producing provinces in Vietnam. If you have been seeking for high-grade Arabica from Vietnam, then Son La Arabica coffee is definitely the “diamond” you should not miss out. Read on to find out more about specialty coffee of Son La, Vietnam.
In order to provide a deeper insight on Vietnam’s Coffee Market, we’ve created this series along with tips on how to select the best beans from Vietnam for your business. Jump to:
- A start-to-finish guide to coffee beans market in Vietnam
- Best types of coffee beans to source in Vietnam
- How to find wholesale coffee suppliers in Vietnam
- Essential guide to checking the quality of Vietnam’s green coffee beans
- 4 Most common mistakes when sourcing green coffee beans from Vietnam
- Everything you need to know about Vietnam’s specialty coffee
A long-established history of Arabica cafe plant in Son La, Vietnam
Sơn La province is the second-largest producer of Arabica coffee in Vietnam. Its coffee dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when French colonialists began cultivating coffee in Son La and other northern provinces, turning this region into a significant producer of raw Arabica coffee for the French coffee industry of the time. Since then, coffee has been gradually developed, contributing to the incomes of the local minor ethnics, and helping them eradicate hunger and reduce poverty. Coffee production has become part of the locals’ lives and everyday practices. After more than 70 years of development, Son La coffee has become a specialty of Sơn La province and has been firmly positioned in both domestic and global markets.
The quality of Son La’s Arabica coffee is not inferior to Brazilian Arabica coffee
Son La’s ideal geography for high-quality Arabica
In Son La, coffee plantations are concentrated in Son La city, Mai Son district and Thuan Chau district, which are all high mountainous regions. The extraordinary aroma and taste of Son La’s Arabica coffee are attributable to the terrain, soil and climate of the geographical area there. Son La’s specialty coffee is grown on steep slopes at the foot of low mountains with an altitude of 900m to 1200m. This growing area in Son La has a similar location to Minas Gerais region of Brazil. The soil here is soft and nutritious, with good water absorption and retention. Moreover, Son La’s climate is rainy and cold, with high rainfall in the summer. Therefore, Arabica coffee trees here grow well for high quality beans.
Local’s experience in picking and processing Arabica coffee
In addition to the terrain, soil and climate of Son La province, the producing experience over the time of the locals here is also an essential factor contributing to the coffee quality. During the cultivating process, the farmers will dig around the foot of the coffee plant in order to increase the soil’s softness. And then, they will use leaves and grass to cover the root, cut and shape the coffee plants’ foliage in order to maximize the amount of sunlight received. When there is hoarfrost, the farmers will frequently water the coffee plants’ foliage to help them develop well. Regarding harvesting process, they will hand pick the ripe coffee cherries instead of plucking the off both unripe and ripe ones. This is the technique that differentiates Son La’s Arabica coffee to those of other. Most common processing method applied in Son La is natural process. Although Son La’s farmers use the same processing method as other coffee-producing areas, the coffee here is dried naturally by sunlight, and therefore does not suffered from any mechanical impact of machines used for drying coffee beans.
Wide range of coffee products with large capacity of high-quality Arabica from Son La, Vietnam
Mr. Hoang Van Chat, Secretary of the Son La Provincial Party Committee, stated that Son La had over 18,000 hectares of agricultural land growing Arabica coffee, with an annual output of about 60,000 tonnes of coffee beans. In the past, Son La Province exported mostly green coffee beans. However in the past 5 years, domestic coffee companies have increased investment in processing to provide the market with various kinds of products, such as roasted coffee beans, traditional-style coffee filters, instant coffee powder, coffee grounds or even coffee husk tea. For instance, Phuc Sinh Son La in Chieng Mung commune of Mai Son district is running with an annual processing capacity of 20,000 tonnes of fresh coffee beans. With large investment in harvesting and processing technology, Arabica coffee beans from Son La meet many coffee global standards, such as the BRC (British Retail Consortium) standards and UTZ coffee standards.
Protected geographical indication for Son La coffee
On September 28, 2017, Son La Province received a certificate of protected geographical indication for its coffee products. This indication lays the firm foundation for Son La’s Arabica coffee to enter the global market and helps promote sustainable development of the domestic coffee sector.
Aware of the economic value of coffee, local authorities have decided to list it among key types of industrial crops to promote economic restructuring. The provincial agricultural sector has provided technical guidance for coffee farmers, while encouraging businesses to join linkages in planting and selling coffee products. Son La Province has created various mechanisms and policies to support and develop coffee planting in a sustainable manner.
Since 2014, the province has provided support for seven households in Chieng Ban Commune of Mai Son District, 35 households in Chieng Co Commune of the city of Son La, and two households in Phong Lai Commune of Thuan Chau District to pilot drip irrigation using Israeli technology. The results show that coffee plantations using drip irrigation systems with Israeli technology provide higher yields compared with those not using this irrigation technology. The province has paid special attention to registering protected coffee products and managing the use of the “Son La” geographic indicator for coffee products.
Source: Thanh Tam, Vietnam Economic News
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