In many cases they are pioneers in their cities, creating a specialty coffee scene that didn’t exist before. In other cases they are innovators who take the best of an existing scene and combine that with something completely unrelated to coffee. That’s what excites me about this very unique world.
I did meet some coffee farmers during a coffee fair in Oaxaca and managed to try some of their locally grown coffee, which was some form of consolation. I will give it another shot later this year, this time in Chiapas, Mexico.
Yet, visiting coffee farmers for a few days or weeks is certainly not the same as actually leaving your entire life behind and moving to one of the globe’s poorest nations to open up the world’s first completely philathropic coffee roaster and cafe. Got your interest? Excellent, keep going.
Janelle Kaz and her boyfriend Tyson Adams are two young Americans who have made it their mission to move to the Bolaven plateau in southern Laos to help the local coffee growing community break the cycle of poverty and address the country’s clean water and sanitation crisis.
The Bolaven plateau is located close to the city of Pakse where I spent a few days during my trip around Laos in 2007. Having visited this fascinating but poor country makes me feel much more connected to their mission than if I had never been there myself.
None the less, even if you haven’t been to Laos, it’s easy to feel immediate sympathy for Janelle and Tyson. Although Laos is still pretty underdeveloped compared to Thailand or Vietnam, it is one of SE Asia’s most popular backpacker destination.
I guess this is largely down to the extreme beauty of this small nation, its stunning cities and temples and the immense friendliness of its people. The fact that they even grow coffee is something that most of us probably don’t even know, even though the world’s second biggest coffee grower, Vietnam, is right next door.
Janelle and Tyson both have experience that is relevant to the cause.
Tyson has spent the last 3 years working and living in Laos to support local clean water projects while Janelle has gained invaluable coffee roasting and brewing experience with one of the US’ most respected artisan coffee roasters, Paul Katzeff.
How Jhai Coffee House is meant to work is quite simple. Janelle, Tyson and their team aim to purchase coffee beans from local farmers at 25% above the Fair Trade price.
All coffee is then roasted at Jhai and served in their cafe to the local community as well as tourists who pass through the area and who can also help out by planting coffee plants and get involved in project.
Jhai then plans to invest all net profits into clean water pumps and sanitation projects for Lao children. But it doesn’t just stop there.
One of the biggest problems faced by poor communities from Darfur all the way to Aboriginal communities in northern Australia is the lack of empowerment.
Dependency on aid or welfare often completely erodes people’s sense of pride and motivation to change their fortunes. Jhai will require local communities to put forward at least 15% of the costs towards these clean water projects, while Jhai will donate the rest.
This so-called co-investment model is based on the philosophy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Through this project, coffee farmers in the Bolaven plateau will finally be able to taste their own product, understand what happens to the beans once they sell them and how to improve their own farming skills.
Coffee beans drying
However, the project’s future is not yet secure. They still require about $55.000 to reach their $100.000 dollar kick-off goal.
If you want to contribute to a project that has a great goal for the local community and will help put Lao coffee on the global map, then follow this link to make a donation or just share their campaign with your friends on Facebook. Every little helps!
The Coffeevine is proud to support Jhai Coffee House. I hope you will join me in helping to turn this ambitious project into a reality.
Pictures courtesy of Jhai Coffee Roasters & Cafe
Lao boy with bike
Tyson and Janelle