Saturday, February 9, 2013

Akha Ama Coffee Journey

Every year, Akha Ama Coffee organizes 2 coffee journeys to Maejantai village. One in November and the other one in January. I found out about the journey from Shannon. The more I read about it the more sure I am this is THE journey I need to drag my brood to. But it looks rough. I had my reservation whether it's too much for Medina. Then I get acquainted with  Avril whose daughter went to the trip when she was about Medina's age. These 2 ladies have been very helpful in helping me working things out for the trip. Thank you ladies.
So why go for a coffee journey?? The only people who drink coffee in my family is me. The only people who's crazy about coffee in the family is me. But that's not the reason why I was so interested to go to this journey. Akha Ama Coffee has a very interesting story. It's a story of how the founder, Lee who is a very inspiring young man try to make a difference and help his villagers. 
It's a perfect opportunity for my kids to see how life for some people is so much simpler. And yet they can make still make a significant difference. Lee's story about his life is really inspiring. There's a very nice write up about Lee here. I pray God continue to bless this young man and his good heart.

The coffee journey is also an opportunity for the kids to understand the concept of free trade. Why it makes a whole lot of difference to support local farmers instead of mega brands. The hard work of the villagers that goes into a cup of coffee. So for these reasons, we embarked on the journey.
We started our journey at Akha Ama Cafe. 
Waiting for the transport.
Our transport. 2 yellow song theaw for 15 of us.
Halfway through, we changed transport. The rough road enroute to Maejentai Village can only be accessed with pick up truck. It was not far. But it was a very bumpy road.
Kids refused to sit inside. Somehow sitting at the back of a pick up truck sounds more exciting to them.
Even when the reality hit them, and the red dust was all over their face, they still think sitting at the back is more fun than sitting inside.
After about 6 hours on the road (including lunch break), we finally reached Maejantai Village. It's about 1300 metres above the sea level. And we were literally at the end of the road. As it's the last village. 
On the first day, Lee gave us a brief introduction on the life and culture of the villagers. 
Lee's mom. Back from work. I wish I am this fit when I am 50.
The swing which is only used during the swing festival sometime in August. It's also a festival to honor the hard working Akha woman.
For meals, we were served Akha food. Very simple. Since the meat is not halal, kids have to stick to vegetarian meal. I think throughout the 3 days, they have eaten more vegetables than what they have eaten in their entire life ;-)
Snow peas plants. Everything is edible. According to Lee, this plant only grows in unpolluted areas. It tastes like snow peas.
Yummy eaten with the dip. I can taste cilantro, garlic, tomato and chilli. 
Rice porridge. Out of this world. This is the only reason Medina got up every morning.
It's very cold at night. But I love night time in the village. The moon is so bright. And I have never seen so many stars on a clear sky at night. Bliss.
Before Lee started Akha Ama Coffee, the villagers sold the coffee berries to the middle man and earn very little. By processing the coffee themselves, they get more profit and eventually their life become better. Today, out of 32 families, 20 families has joined the Akha Ama Coffee brand.

On the second day, we spent the whole day on the coffee farm. It was about 45 minutes walk from the village. It will be longer when you have a 5yo kid with you ;-P
Lee explaining the coffee process.
Coffee takes about 2 years to grow to little plant like this. It's a long process. 
Charlotte, an intern in Akha Ama Cafe briefed us the right way to pick coffee berries.

At noon, we break for lunch. Akha style.
After lunch, we had our usual coffee dripping session. And then back to berry picking.
I am actually very proud of the kids. For persevering and accomplishing the task. They did complain here and there. In their defense, it was actually not easy to pick berries throughout the day. You might get excited in the beginning, but to do it throughout the day is another story. But they stick to it. That's an achievement kiddos!!!

Is this enough, ummi?? Noooo. Pick some more, Emily ;-)
Harvest for the day. There were 15 of us and we picked 94 kg of coffee berries that day. 
Not bad huh???  ;-)
The process of de-shelling the coffee berries. Coffee beans were carefully inspected by Lee's brother.
Wet coffee beans were dried up before they were packed and roasted in Chiang Mai.
Remaining shells were used as compost. The villagers are very environmentally concious.  
Our journey ended on the 3rd day. The journey was definitely quite rough. I can hardly sleep at night. But we gained so much more. I think the kids had a great time. I did. I think they cope much better than me. 
I am glad we went for the journey. It was a great experience for us. We learned that supporting the Akha Ama Coffee makes a big difference to the villagers. It means better life for them. It means access to education to the kids. It means more opportunities.etc.etc.etc.
It's not just a cup of coffee. As Lee said...throughout the coffee process, each coffee bean will go through human hands 366 times. There is a human story behind each cup of coffee.


  1. A wonderful write-up on the coffee journey, and I am so glad that you found value in going on it in the end. I know that it is very uncomfortable to sleep there, but I hope your children enjoyed the experience with Akha Ama, and also in Chiang Mai (I read that post too!). :)

  2. Shannon, my children did have fun. Loads. Especially with all the dogs!! But it's really an eye opener to them. Thanks to you ;-)