While all the Lao coffee is produced in the south (in Bolaven Plateau), Saffron developed a local production in northern Laos, specially in the Luang Prabang province
The story of Saffron Coffee begins with a group of tribes living high in the mountains of northern Laos. Unable to plant and harvest rice in the lowland paddies like the majority Lao, these tribes cultivated opium poppy on the mountain slopes and plateaus.
In 2004 David Dale, and American living in Laos, researched the possibility of planting arabica coffee in northern Laos. So David explored highland areas (coffee grows at 800m high and more, but not less), around Luang Prabang, and found the land to be promising and the interest high among the hill-tribes. As a result, Saffron Coffee was born.
Partnering with local Hmong anf Khmu workers, Saffron coffee created a coffee nursery, planting numerous varieties of arabica coffee seeds (more than 20 different species of seeds are used). When these seeds germinated the seedlings were transplanted into over 300.000 plastic bags. After the coffee trees are of sufficient size, Saffron Coffee makes arrangements to give them to mountain villagers who have land appropriate for planting coffee. Saffron Coffee agrees to purchase all their coffee when it comes time to harvest.
As the red-ripe "cherries" are harvested by hand, Saffron Coffee purchases the coffee from the farmers, wet-processes it into quality green coffee, and roasts it fresh in Luang Prabang. Coffee is becoming the first sustainable cash crop for many upland farmers since opium.
If Laos is famous for its coffee production in south (in the Bolaven plateau where mostly grow robusta), Saffron Coffee introduced a 100% arabica local production in north, already acclaimed by coffee cupper :
"Saffron Coffee has a deep sweet-toned aroma with notes of cedar and dark chocolate. Rich body. Light syrupy texture. Gentle acidity. Rich flavour with notes of dark chocolate and hints of molasses".
Saffron Coffee proposes 4 quality beans :
- Saffron Peaberry, the top of the line. Selection of cherry that has only one bean. This is a favourite of lighter-roasted coffee connoisseurs brewed with a French Press.
- Saffron Premium, with a full flavoured and taste especially delicious when roasted dark and brewed as an expresso.
- Saffron Prime, made from standard beans with the nicest aroma-strong notes of chocolate when freshly roasted.
- Saffron select, made from smaller beans from the coffee harvest.
You can taste it in the 2 coffee shops in town, and also visit the factory where coffee is roasted (5 kilometres out of the city). Saffron Coffee has grown there coffee trees to show of the plants, the cherry, and the way they must be take care of.