Remote Ban Maneepruek in Amphoe Thung Chang of Nan Province is more than one hundred kilometres away from the provincial capital. Apart from being home to Hmong and Lua hill tribes, the slopes of Ban Maneepruek produce some of the world’s best coffee beans.
The forebears of the present villagers were Hmong tribespeople who emigrated from China, so the village once bore the Hmong name of Txhooj phaj (Chong Phai). The name was later changed to Maneepruek, from the names of two army officers, Ananpruek and Manee, who led the fight against communism in that area. Happily, the aroma of coffee has now replaced the smell of gunsmoke.
At first, when authorities introduced coffee farming to the villagers, they grew coffee without realising its full potential. Then, one day, a man came and showed them that coffee beans are worth more than they thought.
Keleb Jordan was a son of an American missionary, who went to Sudan, but the political conflict in Africa turned the path of the family to Thailand and their new life began at Amphoe Thung Chang. It can be said that Jordan was born a Nan native and his work has gained him so much respect from the villagers that they call him Ajarn K.
“I went to explore the village eight years ago for religious purposes and also to see what type of agriculture could be done there to help improve the quality of life of the villagers”.
He learned about coffee bean varieties during an apprenticeship in a coffee roasting plant in the US and was also inspired by a childhood memory of his father roasting his own coffee beans because he could not find the blend that suited his taste. “Maneepruek Village should be suitable to plant coffee”, he said.
He sent more than a hundred emails in vain, asking for coffee beans of various varieties from plantations around the world; but received only one reply. This proved immensely valuable, however. It was from Hacienda La Esmeralda, a well-known plantation in Panama that iuntroduced the Ethiopian Geisha variety to South America.
From the half a kilogram of coffee beans sent from the other side of the world to Nan, only a few trees survived due to the climate and flooding. But the small number of coffee trees that survived managed to grow successfully. Later, Jordan developed them into different varieties on the many hectares of land that he is supervising.
“Even though coffee farming takes a long time before you get results, it is sustainable. Now I can sell my coffee under the brand ‘Gem Forest”, he told us while looking at the green coffee berries on a tree whose leaves show the sign of a new variety. He’s named it Syrina. “Who knows, Syrina might be a famous variety in the future - it’s my daughter’s name.”
The only way to reach the farm is by private car (4x4 is necessary) since there is no public transport to the farm. Take the Nan-Thung Chang Road from the city until km 77-78, then turn right onto a local road for another 30 km. You can set you GPS for Nan Basin Stable Development Project (Ban Maneepruek)