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Coffee for hot climate

April 8, 2011

If you go towards Chiang Rai you will pass a sophisticated-looking road sign stating ‘Doi Chang Botanical Garden’. Of course I had to see what fantastic new attraction was hidden there in the mountains. After driving for hours on a terrible road (ca 15 km/h) we ended up at hills covered with coffee plants (Coffea arabica, Rubiaceae) and some very young peach trees (Prunus persica, Rosaceae). We passed a caravan of very cool-looking 4 WD with crowds of tourists. Apparently the adventure was all about the poor road, quite lame.

We finally got to a station which turned out to be Doi Chang coffee factory. We searched a while to find a living soul, and eventually we did. We asked for the botanical garden, and she explained it was the coffee plantation. Somewhere there must be a translation mistake. Anyhow, it was still interesting to see the coffee. It is a good substitute for opium poppy (Papaver somniferum, Papaveraceae) which was grown here before.

Coffea arabica actually prefers a shady area, and a relatively cool climate. You can grow it in the Chiang Mai valley, but put it under a longan tree so that it has shade all day long.

If you live in Southern Thailand or Malaysia, you need a coffee for a hot climate. Coffea canephora (syn. C. robusta) is a good option. Not as tasty as the classical Coffea arabica, but good enough for freeze dried coffee. Sometimes you see coffee in lists of fragrant plants, but I do not think it is a good option, because the blossom is over in two days. Better grow coffee for their evergreen glossy leaves and decorative red berries, perfect for a shady position.

Eric Danell

Coffea canephora which I germinated from seeds at Dokmai Garden.

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