Nestled in the northern region of Thailand, the Lampang province boasts a unique and rich coffee culture that has been gaining attention in the specialty coffee world. Pronounced as "Lam-pang," this region is located approximately 600 kilometers from Bangkok and sits at an altitude of 300 to 1,300 meters above sea level. Interestingly, Lampang is often referred to as the "Horse Carriage City" due to its well-preserved tradition of using horse-drawn carriages as a mode of transportation.
Coffee cultivation in Lampang dates back to the 1970s when the Thai government introduced coffee plants as part of the Royal Project to curb opium production and provide alternative income sources for hill tribe communities. The region's high altitude, fertile soil, and favorable climate conditions have made it an ideal location for growing high-quality Arabica coffee beans. Over the years, the coffee industry in Lampang has grown significantly, with a notable increase in the number of small-scale farmers and coffee cooperatives dedicated to producing specialty coffee.
Farming and processing methods in Lampang may vary among individual farmers and cooperatives. However, most coffee in Thailand is produced using sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Farmers in Lampang typically grow coffee under a canopy of shade trees, which helps maintain soil fertility, regulate temperature, and support biodiversity. This method not only contributes to the unique flavor profiles of Lampang coffee but also promotes sustainable farming practices that protect the environment and support the livelihoods of local communities.
The processing methods used in Lampang usually include the wet (washed) and natural (dry) processes, although honey processing has been gaining popularity in recent years. The wet process involves the removal of the coffee cherry's pulp and skin, followed by fermentation to break down the remaining mucilage. The beans are then washed and dried, resulting in a clean and bright cup profile. In contrast, the natural process involves drying the coffee cherries whole, allowing the beans to absorb the fruity flavors from the pulp. This method typically results in a more complex and fruit-forward cup. Honey processing, a hybrid of the wet and natural methods, involves the removal of the cherry's skin and some of the mucilage, allowing the beans to dry with a sticky, honey-like coating. This method often results in a sweet and balanced cup with fruity and floral notes.
Lampang coffee is known for its distinct flavor profiles, which can vary depending on the processing method used. Generally, coffees from this region exhibit bright acidity, medium to full body, and a variety of fruit, floral, and nutty notes. Wet-processed Lampang coffees tend to have a clean and bright profile, with flavors of citrus, green apple, and jasmine. Natural-processed coffees, on the other hand, showcase more complex and fruit-forward flavors, such as berries, tropical fruits, and wine-like notes. Honey-processed Lampang coffees often strike a balance between the two, exhibiting sweet and balanced flavors of stone fruits, floral notes, and a hint of nuttiness.
As the specialty coffee scene in Lampang continues to grow and evolve, the region's unique and flavorful coffees are sure to gain even more recognition on the global stage, contributing to Thailand's burgeoning reputation as a producer of exceptional specialty coffee.