Coffee was first introduced to Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 1885 by British colonists in Pyin Oo Lwin but commercial production never really took off.
When the British left the coffee business in the early 19th century, coffee cultivation in Myanmar went into deep hibernation.
The six decades following Myanmar independence in 1948 was a troubled period of political unrest, insurgency and diplomatic isolation. This distracted the Burmese from economic growth and the coffee industry inched on unaided.
Emerging from diplomatic isolation in 2011, Myanmar has since experienced rapid growth in its coffee production. Aided by international NGOs, coffee growers has managed to improve agronomy and harvesting practices.
Over the recent years, investments in milling and education have brought about the birth of a new specialty coffee producing country.
Coffee Production in Myanmar
Currently, Myanmar produces about 7,500 tons of coffee annually, 80% of which is Arabica.
The climate in Myanmar’s highlands – hot days, cool nights – proves to be a boon for coffee cultivation. The dry and hot weather during the harvest season from November to March is also well-suited for the cost-effective natural processing method.
The large estates in Mandalay and the smallholders in Shan State produce the majority of the country’s coffee. Most of the coffee produced by Mandalay are washed coffee while Shan State produces natural processed coffees.
Only about 60% of the coffee is exported, and it primarily goes to China, South Korea, Malaysia, and Japan.
Myanmar specialty coffees are still relatively young and its characteristics may differ greatly from one batch to another.
The best of Myanmar coffees can simply be described as a combination of a fruity Ethiopian natural and a classic earthy Sumatran coffee: bright, sweet, sparkling and luscious.