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A Coffee-Lover’s History of Lao’s Brews

  • By Easia Admin
  • September, 21, 2018

1. From the seed to the plant – How the coffee came to Laos

The first coffee plants – Coffea Arabica – were brought to Laos by the French in the early 1900s, and have been cultivated in the mountains of northern Laos, as well as on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. The Bolaven Plateau is Laos’ main growing region, situated at the bottom of an extinct volcano’s giant crater in the Champasak province, close to the Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese borders. The altitude at the Bolaven Plateau is between 1,000 to 1,300 meters above sea level, with a relatively cool climate and high rainfalls. These conditions make it a perfect area for the crop. Despite the advantageous climate in these two regions, coffee plantations were closed at the outbreak of World War II. As a result, French plantation owners had to leave the region, which led to significantly decreased coffee-growing activity. However, the high potential of the Lao coffee industry has never been entirely forgotten. Travel tips: Champasak is well known for its coffee plantations. In Pakson, the Lao coffee capital, guests can enjoy local coffee directly from the plantations or visit an organic coffee farm themselves. In addition, this province is a must-see for naturalists and history-lovers alike! Southern Laos is known for its numerous, beautiful waterfalls. Some of the most impressive waterfalls are the Khone Phapheng, the Tad Fane, and the Tad Yang. In Champasak, guests can visit the 4000 Islands, known as Si Phan Don, an archipelago that stretches right into the middle of the Mekong. Down there, the Mekong bulges to a staggering width of 14 kilometers. The Vat Phou temple, located at the foot of Mount Phou Passak, was built between the 6th and 12th centuries, and belongs to a group of pre-Angkorian religious sites. In 2000, it was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.

2. From the plant to the bean – How the coffee industry started

Although the first coffee plant was planted way back in the 1900s, its economic potential has only started to be tapped after the Vietnam War. Over time, Lao entrepreneurs slowly rebuilt the industry that was temporarily abandoned by the French colonists. Today, there are mainly three kinds of coffee planted in Laos: Arabica, Robusta and Liberica. The coffee industry has a promising role in the country’s economy, and could make Laos a major player in the global coffee industry. Of the most prolific coffee-producing countries worldwide, Laos, a landlocked country, is one of the bigger producers in the region (ranked 22nd) after Vietnam (ranked 2nd) and Indonesia (ranked 4th).

3. From the bean to the cup – How Laotians drink their coffee

Lao people like to drink their coffee strong. It is brewed in a cloth filter that looks similar to a sock! This might look strange to Westerners, but the technique works very well to prevent the grinds from ending up in the coffee, owing to the fine filtration. Similar to Vietnamese coffee, Laotians drink their coffee with sweet powdered, condensed, or evaporated milk that gives a special taste to the strong coffee. Travel tips: If your trip also leads you to Vientiane, Luang Prabang, or Vang Vieng, here are some recommendations for local coffee shops: Le Trio Coffee is the first boutique roaster in Vientiane that sources ethically-grown beans from local Lao producers, and uses only Robusta and Arabica beans. If your guests are latte fans, Naked Espresso is the place to go. The beans are sourced from local organic growers and roasted to perfection. Saffron Coffee is located right near the Mekong River. It exclusively sources their coffee from ethnic minorities who cultivate it in northern Laos. Café de Laos at the Chang Inn is probably one of the most beautiful coffee shops in Luang Prabang. The place is beautifully-decorated with exquisite, antique items which give an old-world, colonial charm to the shop. Even though the coffee is more expensive here than elsewhere, you can find over 10 types of roasts that makes this visit a worthwhile, “coffee-licious” experience!  Throughout the country, guests can find many Sinouk coffee shops. The brand was founded in 1994, and is one of the first large coffee producers and providers in the country. You can simply walk into one of their coffee shops or stay in their many adjoining resorts. If Lao coffee is something your guests would love to try, we recommend the “Mystic Mountain Jeep Tour on coffee trails” or “Journey to the wonders of the Plateau” experiences. For more information about this and other activities in Laos, please contact


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