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Coffee Weekly Insights – W1 November 2023
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Only a few of the more than 100 different species of coffee that can be found around the world are actually suitable for consumption. Arabica and Robusta are the two of them, they are the most commonly cultivated beans for coffee consumption throughout the world. Vietnam is proud of being the largest Robusta coffee exporter in the world, and at the same time being the second-largest coffee exporter, just after Brazil.

Today, it is estimated that Vietnam produces 20% of the world’s coffee and 40% of all Robusta. Where does the remaining four percent of Vietnam’s coffee production come from, considering that Robusta accounts for more than 96 percent of it? It is Arabica – an acidic, less bitter, and slightly sweet coffee compared to Robusta.

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Vietnamese farmers classify ripe Arabica coffee after harvesting

The early origin of Arabica coffee

Arabica coffee is coffee that derives from the beans of the Coffea Arabica plant, it is known for its rich flavor. Arabica coffee originates from Ethiopia and is the most widely consumed type of coffee in the world, making up to 60% of the coffee production in the world. The name Arabica or Coffea Arabica is believed to have originated when coffee traveled from Ethiopia to Arabia in the 7th Century.

The vast majority of Vietnamese individuals are under the impression that coffee can only taste bitter, and never sour. This misconception derived from their long farming journey with Robusta. Unlike Robusta, Arabica has less caffeine and fewer calories. Arabica beans tend to have a much fruitier and sweeter taste, making them the more popular choice. This explains why we often find Arabica in high-end chains across the world.

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Arabica coffee comes from the beans of a Coffea arabica plant, which originated in Ethiopia

Cultivating Arabica Coffee

Cultivating Arabica coffee is a challenge for every farmer due to the tough requirements. Arabica coffee plants only grow well in the region with high altitudes, suitable climate and soil for their development. Moreover, this species is quite vulnerable to diseases and pests, making it tougher to manage good-quality Arabica coffee beans.

Arabica coffee plants prefer tropical climate close to the equator. That is why some of the best Arabica coffee is grown in countries such as Ethiopia, India, Colombia, and Brazil – the largest producer of Arabica coffee in the world.

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There are about 23 of the world’s leading coffee producers on the Coffee Bean Belt.

According to the Department of Crop Production in 2019, Vietnam’s coffee planted area reaches over 664,000 hectares, Robusta coffee occupies a large area up to 96%, and the rest is Arabica coffee. Though only grown with a small amount, Vietnam Arabica coffee still makes a big impression on the coffee world and to many coffee experts.

Three key regions cultivating Arabica coffee in Vietnam

In the world of the largest Robusta producer, Arabica can only be found in some places in the Northern and Central Highlands. Each region has its own unique features and its high-quality Arabica coffee. The following are three ecological regions for Arabica coffee cultivation in the whole country:

The Northwest Arabica coffee region

The quality of Arabica coffee in the Northwest region is low compared to others due to the way farmers cultivate and produce from seedlings, care until harvest, and sell to the market.

Son La is a mountain province located in the Northwest Vietnam which has many coffee plantations at the altitude of 1000m, a rarity in Vietnam, where the Central Plateau seldom reaches altitudes beyond 600m above sea level. Son La is also a key area of Arabica coffee in the Northwest, it is considered as Sao Paulo of Brazil by experts when coffee is grown on slopes at the low mountains’ foot or on hills and there are soils in the red-yellow soil group that are good for coffee plants such as Fk, Fv, Fs. In fact, Northwestern coffee is not prominent in the Vietnamese coffee industry. But in terms of natural factors, the Northwest has tremendous potential in cultivating high-quality Arabica coffee, we completely have the basis to believe in the near future with “Specialty Coffee made in Tay Bac – Viet Nam”.

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A farmer is drying Arabica coffee beans under the sunlight in the Northwest

The Central Arabica coffee region

The Central region is one of the three pioneering areas for cultivating Arabica coffee in our country. Marking the period of expanding Arabica coffee in Central Vietnam was the coffee plantations of Phu Quy – Nghe An in the early 1910s. However, the largest and most efficient Arabica coffee plantation in Central Vietnam is Khe Sanh – Quang Tri.

When it comes to coffee in Central Vietnam, a featured name is Arabica Khe Sanh. This excellent name won the first prize at the Vietnam Specialty Coffee Contest in 2021, organized by the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Association.

Today, besides the traditional Arabica varieties (Catimor) that have been grown before. The Western Highlands Agriculture & Forestry Technical Institute (WASI) has bred many typical high-yield and high-quality Arabica coffee varieties such as TN1 and TN for cultivation in Khe Sanh (Quang Tri) and Phu Quy (Nghe An). After two years of efforts to pass the rigorous quality control procedure, Arabica Khe Sanh coffee products officially reached the U.S. market in early 2022. This event was not just the pride of Quang Tri province but also the pride of Vietnam Specialty coffee.

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Cultivating Arabica coffee trees in Khe Sanh – Quang Tri

The Highland Arabica coffee region

After going through the Arabica coffee area in the Northwest and the Central region. We have seen each region has distinct geographical features. But they all share one thing in common – suitable altitudes and latitudes for the development of Arabica coffee trees.

The hot and humid tropical climate in Highland is suitable for the development of Robusta coffee. And this is the area that develops half a million hectares of Robusta coffee in our country and brings Vietnam to the top position in Robusta coffee production globally. However, in this vast southern climate, there are still scattered areas with specific climates suitable for Arabica coffee trees.

The most typical is Lam Dong, the province that possesses the best Arabica coffee farm in Vietnam. With an altitude of over 1,600m above sea level, along with a cold climate and foggy weather most of the year, Cau Dat – Da Lat (a city of Lam Dong province) is a paradise for Arabica coffee plants.

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An Arabica coffee farm in Dalat – Lam Dong

Growth potential of Arabica coffee in Vietnam

The market’s demand for high-quality coffee is an inevitable trend. From the history of origin to the quality potential, it always shows that Arabica coffee rather than Robusta dominates the entire coffee industry worldwide.

Given the information that has been provided thus far, it is clear that there is a pressing requirement for Vietnam to devise a strategy for the growth of Arabica coffee that is more environmentally friendly. It is possible for Vietnam to become a full-fledged producer of both Arabica and Robusta coffee. To achieve this goal, there are many things to do such as research on the selection of Arabica coffee varieties to replace existing Catimor varieties, research on pest and diseases control measures. And at the same time, consider the effects of climate change on the coffee production in Vietnam.

At Tuan Loc Commodities, we strive every day to take sustainability matters into our own hands. From the coffee farm to the mill and at last to the hands of our customers.

Reach out to our trader by Email or via LinkedIn today for more information and for help finding the best Arabica option for you!

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