Coffee was first introduced to Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 1885 by British colonists, when missionaries established some small farms up around the city of Pyin Oo Lwin. Commercial production didn’t take off at first, and when the British left the coffee business went into a kind of enforced hibernation. The bulk of the coffee grown here during that time (mostly in Kachin, Mandalay, and Shan State – with smaller growing areas in Rakhine, Bago, and Mon) made its way across borders to China, Laos and Thailand via “unofficial” transactions.
For the next fifty years or so, the coffee trade inched along on a fairly limited scale. Over the last several years, however, several organizations have begun to put more focus on the coffee trade as the Myanmar economy has opened up. Private entities and NGOs have been working with growers to improve agronomy and harvesting practices, and investments in milling and education have brought about the birth of a true specialty coffee business in the country. The climate in Myanmar’s highlands – hot days, cool nights – lends itself well to coffee cultivation. Given the relative predictability of very, very dry and hot weather during harvest season, it is particularly well suited to natural processing, though a significant amount of washed coffee is also produced. Currently, Myanmar produces about 7,500 tons of coffee annually, 80% of which is Arabica.
Mandalay and Shan State produce the majority of the coffee in Myanmar. In Mandalay, most of the farmers own large estates, and produce washed coffee. Shan State producers are almost exclusively smallholders, most of whom own less than a hectare of land, and produce natural process coffees. Only about 60% of the coffee is exported, and it primarily goes to China, South Korea, Malaysia, and Japan.
The Mandalay Coffee Group (MCG) is at the forefront of Myanmar’s specialty coffee movement. In addition to operating a dry mill and exporting company, MCG facilitates market linkages for many small coffee producing communities in Myanmar. Atlas also buys regularly from two estates working with MCG: Green Land Estate and Blue Mountain Estate. For available coffees, we’ve indicated on our offering lists either the name of the producing community or the estate name. Due to the great number of small communities selling coffees through MCG, availability from specific groups may fluctuate year to year. The “High Res Asset Kit” link above and to the right includes profiles for these various communities, as well as Green Land and Blue Mountain Estates. If you’re not finding information there for a specific lot, please let us know!
There are a few articles right here on the Atlas website with some detailed information about Myanmar coffee, including reports of Atlas’ visits. The map below also includes locations of many of the communities producing coffee, along with useful statistics for each group.