Thailand mainly produces Robusta coffee but Arabica coffee farming has been on the rise. According to FAO statistics for 2013, coffee production was 50,000 tons grown on 51,000 hectares. Yield was 980 kilograms per hectare, which placed it at 18th in the world rankings. More recently it’s total production has ranked about 25th, but drops to 56th when assessing only Arabica coffee output.
We lack much first hand experience with Thai coffee that we can share. We have cupped samples over the years, mainly from Chiang Mai district in the north, and see improvements in quality of the arabica coffees. They are mild generally, featuring good body and moderate to low acidity.
Thailand is a relative late-comer to coffee production. In the 1970s King Bhumibol Adulyadej launched a series of coffee projects in the north to help local communities grow cash crops like coffee as an alternative to growing opium poppies.Thailand became an exporter of coffee in 1976.
In general, Arabica beans are grown in northern Thailand and robusta beans in the south. Arabica regions are Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, and Tak. Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) is grown chiefly in the provinces of Chumphon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Krabi, Phang Nga, and Ranong. Coffee is cultivated on 67,832 hectares.
Coffee production in the southern part of the country is 80,000 tons of robusta coffee. One-quarter of the robusta coffee is for domestic consumption in the form of soluble, roasted, powdered, and tinned coffee.
About 500 tons of Arabica coffee is grown in northern Thailand. Coffee production in the northern border region with Burma and Laos, known as the (Golden Triangle). Arabica coffee is a good variety as its yield is profitable to all categories of farmers, including the hill people.
Organic coffee is considered suitable for cultivation in the highlands with an elevation range of 800 metres (2,600 ft) to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft). Coffee is grown both in shaded areas and in open areas in full sun. Intercropping is also practised in hill areas along with fruit trees.
The largest farm is Doi Chaang, and a newer company called Beanspire is producing some nice quality arabica coffee.
These photos are not ours, as we haven’t visited Thailands coffee zones ourselves! They are courtesy of Wikipedia and Doi Chaang!