Nestled in the lush mountainous landscapes of Northern Thailand, the Mae Hong Son coffee region, pronounced as "Mah-Hong-Sohn," is a hidden gem for coffee enthusiasts. Located near the border of Myanmar, this region is situated at an altitude of approximately 1,200 meters above sea level. An interesting fact about Mae Hong Son is that it has the highest percentage of hill tribe population in Thailand, which contributes to the unique coffee culture in the area.
Coffee cultivation in Mae Hong Son started around the 1970s as an effort to replace opium production and improve the livelihood of local hill tribes. The Thai government, along with international organizations, promoted coffee farming as a sustainable and viable alternative to opium cultivation. Over the years, Mae Hong Son has developed a reputation for producing high-quality Arabica beans, which are predominantly grown in the region.
In Mae Hong Son, coffee farmers primarily use organic and sustainable farming practices. They cultivate coffee under a canopy of shade trees, which helps preserve the natural ecosystem and provides a habitat for birds and insects. This environmentally friendly method not only protects the local flora and fauna but also contributes to the unique flavor profile of the coffee.
Most of the coffee in Mae Hong Son is processed using the wet or washed method. In this process, the coffee cherries are depulped to remove the outer skin, and then the beans are fermented in water for a specific period to break down the remaining mucilage. After fermentation, the beans are washed thoroughly and dried, either under the sun or in mechanical driers. This method is known to result in clean and bright flavors in the final cup.
However, it's essential to note that variations in processing methods may exist among different farmers and cooperatives in the region. Some may use other techniques like honey or natural processing, which could impact the taste profile of the coffee.
Mae Hong Son coffee is known for its well-balanced and complex flavor profile. The beans typically exhibit bright acidity with notes of citrus, such as lemon or orange. The fruity flavors are complemented by a subtle sweetness, often described as honey or caramel. The coffee also features a pleasant, medium body, making it an enjoyable experience for both casual drinkers and coffee connoisseurs.
One notable farm in the Mae Hong Son region is the Pang Khon Coffee plantation, run by the Lahu hill tribe. This cooperative of farmers is dedicated to producing high-quality, organic coffee while preserving their traditional culture and way of living. Their coffee has gained recognition both domestically and internationally for its exceptional taste and commitment to sustainability.Mae Hong Son's coffee region offers a unique and memorable experience for anyone seeking to explore the diverse world of specialty coffee. The combination of sustainable farming practices, dedicated local farmers, and a rich cultural history makes the coffee from this region truly exceptional. Next time you have the opportunity to taste coffee from Mae Hong Son, take a moment to appreciate the journey it took from the lush mountains of Northern Thailand to your cup.