This year, we are excited to once again feature coffees from Pa-O, by the folks from Behind the Leaf Coffee. The Pa-O tribe is one of the ethnic tribes from Shan State in Myanmar. Legend has it that the Pa-O are descendants of a dragon and an alchemist named Zawgyi. Traditionally isolated from the outside world, they have their own language and traditions, like many other tribes in Myanmar.
Behind the Leaf Coffee (BTL) is an organisation that aims to resurrect Myanmar’s coffee farms and bring sustainable income for the Pa-O tribe. BTL involves the people throughout the entire production process, providing the Pa-O villagers with agricultural education and teaching them how to process their own coffee and earn fair wages from their efforts.
Great emphasis is placed on the entire coffee process. Farmers are taught to distinguish and hand-pick only fully-ripe cherries, which will then go through two rounds of quality control - once, via the local buyers in each village, and the second round at BTL’s processing mill, where cherries are filtered through a water tank to weed out the floaters. After depulping, drying and hulling, the coffees will go through the final stage of sorting. Workers go through the tedious yet necessary process of hand-sorting out defective greens.
All these crucial and meticulous efforts reflect well in the coffees that BTL produces yearly. They have won multiple awards at the national Myanmar Coffee Competition, with a previous lot winning first place for the fully-washed category, with a score of 88.5.
Aside from coffee production, BTL also supported the Pa-O tribe in numerous ways to improve their quality of life. BTL also is not just about selling coffee to bring in income, but also attempts to make the entire process sustainable, actively advocating for environmentally-conscious efforts like composting. The depulped cherries and fallen leaves are gathered to turn into compost, and used as natural fertilizer for their other agricultural seedlings.
Behind The Leaf Coffee’s efforts in supporting the Pinlaung region is truly commendable and we do wish to continue to see them flourish!