Still rarely seen in specialty roasting, Thailand’s coffee industry is relatively new, with Arabica growing in the mountainous northern regions since the 1970s. The South East Asian tourism boom has brought a new focus on traceable, high quality coffee that is clean and sweet.
Thailand’s beginnings as a coffee origin has a similar story to that of neighbouring Myanmar. In the 1970s, the Thai government incentivised farmers in the mountainous northern regions to move away from conflict-ridden opium production towards another high value cash crop: coffee. Arabica thrives on small farms in these northern regions, produce around 8,000 tonnes a year, where high-yield, disease resistant Robusta is the preferred crop in the south of Thailand.
Today, tourism and native consumption is helping to increase high quality production and specialty lots, with a new focus on traceability from responsible importers. Producer groups and cooperatives make up the majority of specialty growers, but single estate farms are experimenting with coffee that is clean, sweet and relatively low acidity.