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Laos - Bolaven Farms - Washed Arabica

March 6, 2009

This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.

Bolaven Farms is engaged in a project, in collaboration with the Lao government, to help stamp out rural poverty by training area farmers in organic farming technology. Farmers that have undergone this training can qualify for loans to buy land of their own.

Bolaven Farms is partnering with the AGPC Cooperatives, which involves 2,625 family farms in 53 villages. AGPC, translated from French, is The Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers Group Association. Although AGPC is not certified Fair Trade, Bolaven Farms pays Fair Trade premium prices to encourage member farmers to embrace quality, post-harvest preparation. AGPC is the first effort on the Bolaven to move from the primitive methods of post-harvest processing to a managed Wet Mill Process. AGPC can be contacted at

Located on the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos, Bolaven Farms is situated on 410 acres of gently sloping fertile land bordered by mountain streams to the north and southwest. One hundred acres have been cultivated with legumes and improved grasses for fodder while the remaining 310 acres are planned for coffee and rotational short-term crops.

Our Combined Review:
This is another first for us - coffee from Laos. Generally, the aromatic quality (dry fragrance and wet aroma) is clean with hints of caramel but has an underlying vegetal component that may be typical of coffees from Southeast Asia. The predominant flavor at lighter roasts is herbal/vegetal, a sort of buttered asparagus. This is especially noticeable as the cup cools.

The aromatic qualities and flavor profile are consistent, varying little from cup to cup, with some slight high-end fruity notes, caramel middle tones and a touch of spice as the main components. There is very little shift in the profile upon cooling.

The coffee is sweet and crisp, so the vegetal note is not unpleasant, but it is disconcerting, since one doesn't expect it in coffee. At darker roasts, peaty flavors come to the fore and balance the vegetal origin flavor, giving an overall impression of tobacco leaf. This combination tastes more conventional, and works well for espresso and milk drinks.

Update: This month (April 2009) we received a better-prepped sample of this coffee and have revised our original scores.

The cupping score below is an updated score for a light cupping roast and is the combined score of the two of us.

Combined Score
Dry Fragrance: 3.5
Wet Aroma: 3.8
Flavor: 8.0
Finish: 7.5
Acidity: 6.5
Body: 7.5

TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 86.8

  • Lighter Roasts: Sweet, with good acidity, predominant and disconcerting asparagus flavors.
  • Darker Roasts: Peaty distillates mixed with the vegetal taste creates an overall tobacco flavor.
  • As Espresso: The medium-dark roast makes an unusual but tasty smoky espresso shot. The light roast is unsuitable for espresso beverages.


UPDATED: April 30, 2009