‘I love coffee and I love my hometown’ says Ye Naing, the founder of Cafe Maymyo. His face lights up when discussing anything related to coffee or to Pyin Oo Lwin and his cafe is a true labor of love.
It would seem the young entrepreneur faces an uphill battle, as his small-scale business tries to carve a niche in the coffee market dominated by big names like Sitthar and Genius. But Ye Naing has a different perspective. His goal is not to be the biggest, not to be the most famous yet to share his two passions with local residents and foreign visitors.
Has spent some year in Mandalay and Yangon for education and work, Ye Naing returned to his native Pyin Oo Lwin in 2016 to his aging mother. As he was happy to be back home but, saddened with the changes he saw in town. The climate was warmer, the leafy trees that once filled the streets had been cut down and many of the beautiful colonial buildings had been replaced with large, concrete monstrosities. Too many people were on their phones or inside their houses and too few people were gathering at tea shops to chat with friends.
Ye Naing began dreaming of his own cafe where students, families and groups of friends could come to relax and talk. And, as a coffee lover, he wanted to use this cafe to introduce the local residents to the true taste of high-quality, locally grown coffee. Rather than buying it from one of the larger producers in town, Ye Naing wanted to grow his own.
‘I want to control the quality so that I am certain my customers are being served the best coffee’, he explained.
Luckily, Ye Naing’s uncle had a farm on the road leading to Mogok. It was only 12-acres, the perfect size for starting a small coffee plantation, and he managed to convince his uncle to switch crops. While the plants were maturing, Ye Naing worked on setting up the production facility in nearby Anisakhan and hiring a team to handle each step of the process. Within 2 years, Ye Naing was brewing his first cup of self-grown coffee and named it ‘Cafe Maymyo’ in honor of its origin.
With the coffee production up and running, Ye Naing turned his efforts to open the cafe he had envisioned years earlier. In August 2018 he found a two-story building located near the center of town, did a bit of redecorating and launched Cafe Maymyo’s first actual cafe. The space, which seats around 20 guests, is inviting with warm lighting, comfortable seating and soft instrumental music playing in the background. A couple of baristas work behind the bar, serving up a full range of espresso-based drinks and fresh juices and a small food menu of sweet and savory items is on offer.
While the delicious farm-to-cup coffee is certainly the highlight of any visit to Cafe Maymyo, the friendly service and atmosphere are also worth noting. The pride that the owner shows in his brand has spread to the staff, who take their brewing seriously. Case in point – on a recent visit, the rain kept away the customers but the baristas were constantly at work practicing latte art and discussing best techniques.
When looking back on what he has accomplished, Ye Naing takes very little credit. ‘My uncle’s support has been so important to the growth of Cafe Maymyo. He let me take over his farming land and he gave me encouragement to follow this dream’, Ye Naing remarks. He is also quick to praise his team of employees and his family and friends who have backed his dreams from the start.
Looking ahead, ‘I have a vision to not only promote local, high-quality coffee but to also impact my hometown. I want the residents to value and be proud of the products from Pyin Oo Lwin. And I want to encourage other SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) in the community,’ Ye Naing articulates.
To accomplish this, he is trying to market his Pyin Oo Lwin-grown coffee beyond the city limits- and, thus far, he has agreements with cafes and hotels in Mandalay, Yangon and Taunggyi to sell his beans. Ye Naing also has plans to arrange special event nights at Cafe Maymyo for young entrepreneurs so that they can share ideas and learn from other community business leaders.
Hopefully Ye Naing’s spirit of entrepreneurship catches on. Cafe Maymyo may not have a huge marketing budget or global brand recognition of Starbucks but what it does have in endless quantities is passion. And perhaps passion is the secret ingredient that makes Cafe Maymyo’s coffee taste so damn good!
Café Maymyo’s Facebook page
Address: Block 7, Near YMBA Hall, Pyin Oo Lwin
Tel: 09 777 663152
Hours: 9 am to 9 pm