Fast-growing coffee scene in Vientiane boosts small business

13 June 2022
ITC News

Small coffee businesses in Lao PDR reach for global specialty markets through ITC training.

The coffee scene in Vientiane is bustling, with coffee shops propping everywhere. Among the many new cafés in the capital city of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Terminal 89 profiles itself with minimalistic style, serving Lao Robusta coffee. ROK Slow Bar on the other hand, serves Lao coffee using manually operated espresso machines known as ROK. Both coffee shops are run by young, enthusiastic entrepreneur Phetanong Mounlamay.

The 30-year-old co-founded Terminal 89 café and runs ROK Slow Bar herself on weekends. Despite having only a few staff, Phetanong loves to share her passion for coffee with her customers, taking time to show them how the ROK machine works and explain the value of Robusta coffee.

“Most people perceive Robusta as a low-value coffee,” the owner explains. “In contrast, Arabica coffee is more popular. Actually, there are many factors including the way coffee is cultivated, harvested, processed, stored and roasted, which are equally important and can have impact on the quality of coffee and its price regardless the species of coffee. I would like to create high-quality Lao coffee with higher added value, especially Robusta coffee.”

According to the International Trade Centre (ITC), the global coffee sector has expanded significantly over the past two decades as demand for coffee increased by 65%. The growth of high-value market segments such as specialty coffee, which provides new flavours, have reinvigorated demand in traditional markets with already high per capita consumption. A recent report by Global Newswire states that the specialty coffee market is foreseen to reach over $152 billion by 2030.

In Lao PDR, ITC supports coffee producers, small businesses and coffee shop owners like Phetanong to meet requirements from the international specialty coffee market through training courses and connecting them to international buyers via competitions or online auctions.

Under the ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU Plus – Lao PDR (ARISE Plus), implemented by ITC, Phetanong attended training on ‘Improving Sensory and Cupping Skills – Specialty Coffee Association Certification’. She first attended the foundation level in November 2021 and recently completed the intermediate level in May 2022.

Before the training, Phetanong only knew the basics of specialty coffee, due to its popularity in neighbouring countries such as Thailand. However, she did not have an in-depth understanding of the process from seed to cup, including cultivation, harvesting, drying, and brewing. The training also helped Phetanong establish a coffee network with other trainees, international experts and coffee shop owners.

“After completing the two courses, I now feel more empowered and confident in improving my business through quality standards and pursuing my dreams,” she says.

About Arise Plus Lao PDR

The ASEAN Regional Integration Support – Lao PDR Trade-Related Assistance project (ARISE Plus Lao PDR) is funded by the European Union (EU). It contributes to the country’s inclusive economic growth, increased climate change resilience, mitigation of vulnerability and job creation.