Have you ever sipped a coffee so good you wondered where the coffee beans came from?
Compared to the coffee shops it supplies, Amayar is not that well known among the customers. But if you happen to have your breakfast at renowned cafes like Coffee Circles and Easy Café in Yangon, or Goffee Coffee in Mandalay, chances are you might have already tasted the products of Amayar.
Hailing from the hilly region of Ywangan, Southern Shan State, Amayar has been producing specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans since 2016. Besides, the whole business is led, managed, and operated chiefly by women.
Su Su Aung, the founder of Amayar, is a Ywangan native. She comes from a long line of coffee farmers. But most of the production methods are centuries-old and in need of upgrade.
“Ywangan is located at an elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level. Its geographical location and weather are perfect for coffee plantations. In fact, almost every household in the town has its own plantations. But our farmers weren’t aware that the coffee market is the second-largest in the world after oil. Besides, traditional growing methods are inefficient and the production is small-scale,” Su says.
After acknowledging the need for techniques and finance, Su began to look for possible opportunities.
In 2015, she joined the coffee processing training in Ywangan run by the Winrock International’s Value Chains for Rural Development Project under USAID. Through USAID’s Inkind Grant, Su received coffee mills and a generator.
“My training included processing, cupping, post-harvesting, price risk management, and roasting. I also gained a lot of knowledge regarding coffee workshops, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo, World of Coffee Expo, etc.,” Su reflects.
Then, she met Dino Ku in 2016 while looking for financial assistance.
Dino recalls: “When I came to know Ma Su Su Aung, I was working at CB Bank. Ma Su was challenged in financing her business. Banks couldn’t give her a loan because of the lack of collateral. So, we facilitated a Ks20 million support through the Credit Guarantee Insurance (CGI)**.”
Amayar began with coffee planters from five villages through the dry natural method in 2015. The production increased from 7 tonnes to 15 tonnes within a year. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, Amayar had produced 45 tonnes.
The town produces over 700 tons of coffee beans each year.
Her aim was more than running a successful business. Rather, she thought about enriching and empowering the lives of women in her village.
“Ninety per cent of my co-workers are women. When I thought about the brand name, I wanted it to represent women. So, I chose the name of the ideal women from Buddhist legend of Amayar, famed for wisdom.”
The business began with 22 employees, among which 20 were women. Now, Amayar has 46 staff and 40 of them are women.
She said she has committed 10 per cent of the annual profits to the education of the local women.
Nowadays, farmers know how profitable their products are. With the right tools and techniques, the price of quality coffee cherries has jumped from Ks250 a kilogramme to Ks600 in the past decade.
Coffee has acidity, aroma, and sweetness. If a type of coffee scores more than 80 points on the benchmark of SCA at the tasting, it is labelled specialty. The coffee’s quality is varied, depending on the region.
Maintaining the quality of speciality-grade coffee demands everyone’s efforts from the time of growing, harvesting to brewing.
At the farm, only the fully ripe cherries must be picked to extract the rich seeds inside. The QC personnel needs to check the cherries to ensure that they are at least 90 per cent ripe.
The quality control process further involves a cup test in which each lot of coffee is brewed and tasted. Then, they are graded based on the taste. Every step must strictly follow the SCA’s Green Coffee Defect Handbook to maintain the quality.
“We produce using four methods: Dry Natural, Black Honey, Yellow Honey, Fully Washed.”
You can try their coffee at Easy Café, Element Coffee, and WTC in Yangon; My Secret Café and S&M Hand in Taunggyi and Goffee Coffee in Mandalay.
Amayar also exports and its products can be found on the shelves at Atlas, USA (2016-2020), MAMUMO, Japan (2019-2020), Flexya SASU, France (2020) and Singapore (2020).
**SME CGI Loan scheme is a special financing scheme for the development of Myanmar SMEs by government-owned Myanmar Insurance and CB Bank. Both the bank and Myanmar Insurance jointly share the risk of the loan. You can receive financing under SME CGI scheme without collateral and the maximum loan amount you can apply is Ks20 million.