For everyone who may be unaware, I am currently living in a beautiful city called Luang Prabang in Laos (in between Thailand & Vietnam and a former French colony). It turns out that Lao coffee is an actual thing.
They have a unique style of cooking here, and I will be writing up a full post about the recipes and flavors, etc., very soon.
But for now, I want to share with you an infographic I made about the coffee trade in Laos and, to a lesser extent, Southeast Asia.
If you are like me, you love coffee and need the brown stuff to function properly!
Being from the UK, I am used to drinking all sorts of coffee from all around the world, but my coffee knowledge was somewhat limited.
I only knew that coffee came from Ethiopia, Brazil, and I knew that a bit came from Vietnam.
But then I moved to the Eastern hemisphere of the world and rapidly started to realize that my knowledge wasn’t just limited, but seriously lacking.
Not good when you consider that I love the stuff and have probably drunk at least 1 cup a day since I was probably 17!
My Quick Story
I was working in a Japanese travel company in Laos when I got called over to their head office in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City for those of you who crave retro-ness) – also a genuinely fantastic and fun place, and I highly advise anyone who can visit to do so
When I arrived, I soon found an incredibly advanced coffee culture!
The drink of choice for the youth was iced coffee, coffee, ice cream, or…well, pretty much loads of food that involved coffee!
It turns out that Vietnam is the number 2 coffee producer in the world!
I don’t know if you already knew that or not, but I didn’t…
Just FYI, Brazil is the number 1 coffee producer globally and produces roughly double the amount of Vietnam, but I knew about Brazil; they have tremendous resources and a hospitable climate for most natural products.
What has that got to do with Lao Coffee?
Well, After that, I did some digging around.
I am a bit of a geek when it comes to research, and I always want everything I write about to be as factually correct as possible.
That is why my massive guide about the Best Induction Cookware is so popular – I spent weeks speaking with all manufacturers and reaching out to the reviewers etc.
Let’s get back to coffee!
So after I had spoken around and with many different folks, including some people working with UNESCO (Luang Prabang is a World Heritage site), it seems that Laos has a pretty active coffee production industry.
Let me be obvious here, though:
The Lao coffee industry is mainly limited to export around Laos and small amounts elsewhere, and it produces a relatively small amount of coffee compared to its larger neighbors. It ranks as the smallest producer in all of Southeast Asia.
But the fact remains that Laos produces coffee!
What does it taste like?
I can easily describe it in 2 words: Thick & Earthy!
It isn’t a very sophisticated coffee, perhaps because Laos doesn’t possess the same processing technology as some larger countries, but it is nonetheless delicious.
Lao people like to drink it along with their noodle soup for breakfast, (yes soup for breakfast! Took me a while to get used to, but it is very nutritious and sets you up for the day!).
I am not a big fan of doing this because the soup is usually pretty spicy, and I don’t like the feeling of both a spicy kind of heat and a temperature kind of heat.
However, it is a great coffee to drink throughout the day.
It is powerful and is mainly of the Robusta variety; however, Arabica is produced in smaller amounts.
This results in a robust and thick flavor that means that you don’t need to drink as many cups a day to keep yourself in the upright position!
The coffee culture here in Laos has been heavily influenced by both the French and the Vietnamese directly. Thus, it is a unique mixture of all these coffee-drinking styles.
Nowadays, the primary influence comes from the West of Laos, Thailand, coffee chains and franchises, etc.
Thailand and Laos are more socially natural neighbors than the Vietnamese, who are generally their political neighbors – both being only 2 of the 5 remaining communist countries left in the world.
Where is Lao coffee grown?
Lao coffee is predominantly grown in a location in the south of the country called the Bolaven Plateau. 95% of Lao coffee is grown there.
In the south, it is called Champasak Province, known for its very fertile soil, suitable for coffee production.
One of the main reasons that it is grown here is the French trailed production around 1915. Although the French were unaware at the time, the sense that the soil around the Bolaven Plateau is so fertile is a volcanic eruption millions of years ago.
Volcanic eruptions are well known nowadays for spewing out incredibly nutrient-rich matter that creates farmland unsurpassed in its vegetation growing abilities.
It also helps that the Bolaven Plateau has a high altitude of 800 to 1350 meters and a cold climate!
This post has been a bit of an informative post somewhat unrelated to the rest of The Kitchen Guy, but I have been touched by Laos, its people, and of course, its food!
As I said at the beginning, I will be doing a write up about individual Lao dishes soon, and if you sign up to The Kitchen Guy mailing list, you will be first to get all updates as soon as they are published.
I want to let everyone know that there are a little country of no more the 7,000,000 (million) people out there that is more than just one of those countries you have never heard of.
It produces something that every single human being around the world drinks in one form or another (coffee in general, not Lao coffee), regardless of religion or race, etc.
I think this is an excellent thing, and I wanted to share these thoughts with you all, my fellow readers.