Samui Wining & Dining
Coffee Culture

Boncafe – supporting a local industry.

 

4Coffee, café, kopi, or ikhofi. Whether you are English, French, Indonesian or Zulu, this drink from the roasted seeds of the Coffea plant is loved throughout the world. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Coffee is the favourite drink of the civilised world.” Apparently, over 500 billion cups of coffee are drunk annually, with half of those being at breakfast time, so it seems Mr Jefferson made a fair prediction of the modern world. For many, coffee is more than a beverage, but rather a necessity. It is a known fact that coffee stimulates the mind and body, increases alertness, improves mood and temporarily boosts energy.

    Here's an interesting fact that may be useful at the next pub quiz night: Coffee can actually be used to fuel a car. The British science programme, 'Bang Goes the Theory', drove a car nicknamed 'car-puccino' between Manchester and London powered solely by roasted coffee granules. The car only managed about 1.6km per 450g of coffee, which equates to 1.6km per 56 shots of espresso. Although not too fuel-efficient, one would imagine that the emissions smelt considerably better than regular fuel! Coffee is actually the second most traded commodity in the world, second only to oil. And now that we know it can be used as fuel, perhaps in the future it may make it to number one.

 

      Thailand, as a coffee-producing nation, is ranked fourth in Asia after Vietnam, Indonesia and India. While there are over 50 species of coffee plants in the world, only Arabica and Robusta are of major economic significance, and both of them are grown in Thailand. At present, Thailand produces around 50,000 – 80,000 tonnes of Robusta annually, of which 40% is processed by local manufacturers, with the balance being exported. Only a few thousand tonnes of Arabica are produced annually, which are almost all processed locally.

         Boncafe (Thailand) Ltd. is a leading Thai-Swiss gourmet coffee manufacturer and exporter, as well as being a provider of coffee and tea products to the restaurant and hotel industry.With head offices in Bangkok, a factory in Sri Racha, Chonburi, 12 branches in the main provincial hubs as well as supplying ten supermarket chains, this popular brand of Thai coffee is available throughout the nation.
        Boncafe sources all of its coffee beans locally from Thailand's two main coffee-producing areas. The northern Thailand coffee region is known as the 'Misty Mountains', and the southern region as the 'Red Earth'. However these names were derived, whether it was some creative individual in the coffee industry or not, they do conjure up pretty vivid images of the areas.

      Robusta coffee grows at a lower altitude, and for the farmers, it is an easier crop than Arabica. The plants are easier to cultivate and are more disease-resistant. Robusta can tolerate greater temperature and moisture extremes. It also produces more beans, and their fruit matures considerably quicker than Arabica plants. However, Robusta is generally regarded as a lesser quality bean, and therefore yields lower prices.

       Thai Robusta is internationally regarded as being of a good quality, and major export markets are the United States, Europe, Japan and Singapore. In the local market, Robusta is mainly used for various canned coffee drinks, instant coffee and good quality blends. The 'Red Earth' of southern Thailand is home to the Robusta plantations, mainly in the provinces of Surat Thani, Chumphon, Ranong, Nakorn Si Thammarat, Phang-Nga and Krabi.

       In contrast, Thai Arabica is grown in the 'Misty Mountains' plantations in northern Thailand, mainly in the provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Mae Hong Son and Tak. Unlike Robusta, Arabica trees thrive at higher altitudes, which in Thailand is between 800 and 1,500 metres. Beans mature at a slower pace at these altitudes, producing a bean that is generally richer, denser and more flavoursome. Arabica in Thailand is still at the experimental stage, which helps explain its low annual yield. Most Thai Arabica coffee is grown by hill tribe families and villages, as part of development programs. The beans that are picked annually, are bought almost entirely by local traders and roasting factories such as Boncafe, for producing roast and ground coffee.

       Back to the interesting facts... legend says that coffee was first discovered in the Ethiopian highlands, by Kaldi, a goatherd. The story goes that he discovered coffee after observing that his goats became so sprightly that they did not want to sleep at night after eating the berries from a particular tree. Kaldi dutifully reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery. The abbot then made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long evening prayer session, and so shared his discovery with the other monks. Gradually knowledge of the energising effects of the berries began to spread, reaching the Arabian peninsula, and from there its reputation spread across the globe. It's not clear when the beans began to be roasted, but it probably happened when someone accidentally dropped some into an open fire, and the aroma that is so loved first became known. Let’s lift our espressos in a 'cheers to the goats', as life without their discovery wouldn't be quite the same.

      Coffee was introduced to Southeast Asia and the West Indies in the 17th and 18th centuries, however the real start of the Thai coffee industry is relatively recent. Opium crop replacement became an official Thai government program in the 1970s. Supported by the Royal Family, the UN and several other government and non-government organisations, the hill tribe farmers in the Golden Triangle and along the borders of Burma and Laos started to grow Arabica coffee. A decade prior to this, the Thai government started a campaign promoting Robusta plantations in southern Thailand.

      Boncafe is UTZ certified, meaning that they only source their beans from sustainable farms that provide better opportunities for the farmers and their families. Farmers are educated in growing better crops in order to generate more income, while at the same time, safeguarding the environment for the future. Let's toast that with another espresso!

      Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History Of Coffee And How It Transformed Our World, stated, “Only one thing is certain about coffee... Wherever it is grown, sold, brewed, and consumed, there will be lively controversy, strong opinions, and good conversation.” So whether you are ordering in a restaurant or brewing up your own at home, know that by drinking Boncafe coffee, you are not only supporting a local industry, but most probably contributing to more interesting conversation.

 

Rosanne Turner


 


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