Roaster seeks to give Cambodia coffee global buzz

Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:30am EDT
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By Lach Chantha

MONDULKIRI, Cambodia (Reuters Life!) - Southeast Asian coffee from Vietnam and Indonesia percolates around the world, but if a family roaster has its way, mugs may soon be filled with a blend from another, unlikely location: Cambodia.

Every few days, the rich, earthy aroma of roasting coffee wafts over the dusty town of Mondulkiri in Cambodia's remote northeast as the employees of family-owned Mondulkiri Coffee maintain a tradition started in the 18th century by French colonialists.

The hills surrounding Mondulkiri are about 800 meters (2,625 ft) above sea level, an ideal climate for the coffee plants which are irrigated by natural streams, and the area has so far remained safe from rubber plantations and other cash crops.

Mondulkiri Coffee owner Yon Thun is a relative newcomer to the business but says his love of the brew made him turn it into his livelihood.

His company roasts 150 kg of coffee beans every couple of days, which are ground into a powder and packaged in 250 gram boxes which sell for 6,000 Riels ($1.50) or larger half kg boxes which sell for 12,000 Riels.

"I used to drink coffee at this place and the taste was so good I asked the locals how they made it and I learnt from them," Thun told Reuters recently.

"I then started to make coffee but it was not that good at first. But I got it right after about six months later."

Cambodian coffee, like other coffees in Southeast Asia, are roasted till almost black with the help of vegetable fat. The beans are then ground into a fine powder, and the whole process is done by hand, creating a rich, dark blend.   Continued...

<p>An ethnic M'mong farmer visits a coffee plantation in Dam Rong district, in Vietnam's central highland province of Lam Dong September 6, 2009. REUTERS/Kham</p>