The Coffee Secrets of Vietnam: The Story of Beans in Distant Fields
A Superpower of Robusta Production
Vietnam is currently the world number one producer and exporter of Robusta coffee (which is widely used to make instant coffee), second only to Brazil in term of volume. Vietnam has become an important source of Robusta coffee for many large coffee roasters, due to its vast availability and reasonable value. Strauss purchases more than 350,000 bags annually from Vietnam.
Some Facts and Figures
– Vietnamese coffee production is highly concentrated in the central highlands (80 percent). The province of Daklak alone produces about 43 percent of national coffee output, with Lam Dong and Gia Lai contributing additional 41 percent. The majority of coffee plantations are in the south with main production of Robusta. The Arabica coffee is mainly in the northern areas and partly in Lam Dong, Daklak.
The majority of Vietnamese coffee plantation is small and medium sized from less than 1 to 50 hectares. There is less than 5% of coffee plantation are larges scaled (more than 500 hectares) and these plantations belong to state owned Vinacafe group.
Vietnam has only one Robusta crop per year, and the crop year starts from October until the end of September the year after.
The flowering of coffee tree is mainly occurred during Jan-Feb right after picking of coffee cherries and especially after the massive irrigation in all over coffee plantation. This forced irrigation to help coffee trees recovered from the major harvesting which has destroyed the health of coffee tree.
The flowering is also triggered by rainfall during and after that time. Sometime, the un-usual rain can cause different flowering in one coffee tree and many areas.
The tree produces coffee cherries 6-9 months after flowering. The cherries ripen at different rates in the same field and even in the same tree.
So far, the technological factor in coffee sectors is mainly focusing on farming with high intensive cultivation of fertilizer for highest yield. Fertilizers cost is normally shared around 30-40 percent of the cost of production.
Quality Manual Harvesting
Harvesting is performed manually and is quite labor-intensive. The Strip-picking involves selecting the ripe cherries for harvesting over the course of several picking sessions. This method is more often used in Arabica, particular when the wet processing method is used.
The coffee harvest takes place between November and February. Farmers used to harvest coffee in a short period of time, and pick all cherries at once; this included both ripe and unripe cherries. Recently, this pattern has changed because farmers are becoming more aware of quality problems if they pick unripe cherries.
How is Robusta Processed? It is Dried Out!
We effectively support Strauss commodities AG in its procurement of green coffee and do the quality control as well as logistics after first approval of the coffee bags, until it is put in containers and continues it route to various Strauss coffee factories.
Robusta coffee in Vietnam is processed mostly in the dry method. It means the farmers dry coffee cherries in the sunshine or use mechanical drying. They will then keep the dried cherries in plastic bags and store them at their home for later sale. Some large estate farms normally send coffee for a semi-washed process, a similar process to the one applied in Central America.
There will be a large volume of coffee cherries need to be dried and processed after picking and if the weather is still wet during this time, the processing of coffee can be ruined, affecting the quality of coffee beans.
The post harvesting coffee processing sector has not developed as fast as its production. This has led to a large quantity of local Robusta being exported without proper preparation which than results in inconsistent export quality.
The Strauss Representative Office in Vietnam
We always stay close to local players and really understand the current practice of local market and act on behalf of Strauss as a buyer, to control the quality flow of beans to various Strauss coffee plants.
Our team works closely with Strauss Commodities AG and other Strauss coffee locations to really understand their needs for coffee qualities and other logistic requirements. We then carefully communicate these requirements to our suppliers to make sure they carry out it properly!
Our team member does carefully select coffee lot since it is still lying out at supplier warehouse, and do the approval at our office if it fit our quality requirements and other conditions and we then send report to corresponding people at Strauss coffee plants. At the time of shipment, our team members will conduct another inspection to make sure the coffee as, indeed, approved for shipment. The team has done this for all shipments to all Strauss plants for the past 11 years.
At the end of the entire process, the beans arrive at the Strauss plants and undergo additional processes until they finally reach your coffee cup – as grains or powder.