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Keeping Cambodia’s coffee line perked up

Source:FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal

Date Published:10/31/2019 04:10:31 PM

Three Corner Coffee captures the flavours of Asia-grown coffees in its roasts and blends, writes JEAN ALINGOD-GUITTAP.  

SOUTHEAST Asia’s coffee industry remains exciting as production of premium coffee grows and the region’s consumption rises.

In this competitive market, the Cambodia-based company Three Corner Coffee stays on track, offering fresh-roasted, high-quality Arabica and Robusta that come in resealable flat-bottom packaging. By preferring to source through Direct Trade, the company from Phnom Penh encourages producers from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia to improve the quality of their yield to earn more.

FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal was lucky to catch Managing Director Joshua Jones in Phnom Penh to know more about their products and the tastes and aromas that sell across the region.

How long has Three Corner Coffee been in Cambodia, and what kind of coffee do you produce?

Three Corner Coffee was started in Cambodia in 2010. Our name was inspired by the three nations of Indochina where the French first introduced coffee: Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

We roast both Arabica and Robusta sourced from Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. One of our goals is to ensure a market for local and indigenous coffee farmers located in Cambodia.

Joshua Jones, Managing Director, Three Corner Coffee  

How has Cambodia’s coffee industry evolved through the years?

The coffee industry in Cambodia is still quite young and though coffee is drunk by most levels of society, how coffee is defined is quite different in each level. Due to the ease of use, instant coffee, especially 3-in-1, is available to virtually everyone in Cambodia, and due to its inexpensiveness, it is the coffee of choice for those with limited income. The most consumed coffee beverage however, is the butter-roasted, soybean- or corn- mixed, coffee brewed by most Cambodian coffee shops, and this is drunk either black with sugar, or mixed with sweetened condensed milk. In the last eight years, consumption of espresso-based coffee beverages has grown from a handful of shops in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, to thousands of cafes, kiosks, and mobile carts serving americanos, lattes, and cappuccinos in most cities in Cambodia.

You source through Direct Trade. Could you tell us more about this method and why you prefer it over Fair Trade?

We choose to source through Direct Trade whenever possible as this method is much more versatile. Specifically, in Cambodia, the ability to source precisely graded coffees with guarantees on trash and defects is nearly impossible. This means that we have to offer directly to the farmers prices based upon the quality with which they are supplying us. On very rare occasions this goes the other way, where the farmer actually takes the time to care for the coffee from trees, to fruit, to processing and give us a superior flavoured product that is worth paying a good bit above the fair trade value. That is what we want to encourage, and we believe Direct Trade is the best way to do that.

What are Three Corner Coffee’s Original Four, and how are they different from each other?

Three Corner Coffee’s Original Four are the first four coffee roasts and blends with which we chose to showcase to the Cambodian market what it meant to drink fresh-roasted, high-quality coffee.

Kampuchea Gold is 100% Cambodian Robusta coffee. Sourced from the Mondulkiri highlands, it is a surprisingly smooth Robusta, roasted to a medium-dark roast level with flavour notes of toasted nuts, tangy wild jack fruit, and dark chocolate.

Kampuchea Double-Roast is 100% Regional Robusta coffee, sourced from all three corners. It is roasted using our proprietary smoky roasting process, which enhances the natural savoury sweetness inherent in Southeast Asian Robustas.

Mekong Espresso Blend is 25% Arabica and 75% Robusta coffee. This blend is a mix of four separate roasts that capture the fullest potential that the Mekong region has to offer. This medium roasted coffee exhibits floral aromas, freshly picked green pea sweetness, and a smooth, full body.

Bolovens Plateau Blend is 50% Arabica and 50% Robusta coffee – more specifically, Arabica from the Bolovens Plateau near Pakse, Laos, and our regional Robusta coffees. This blend is a medium-light roasted coffee with light acidity, floral aromas and a lingering toasted nut finish.

Three Corner Coffee’s Original Four – a showcase representing the flavours of Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

How do you ensure shelf life and freshness of your products?

The freshness of our coffee has always been our number one priority.  We maintain the most effective minimum stock levels possible and guarantee under one week from the roasting date to all of our customers.  As our product must maintain its quality as it sits on retail shelves, the packaging we use is a three-layered, foil-lined package, as well, so that the coffee stays fresh at home after opening, we have invested in making the packaging easily resealable.

What is your production capacity?

Our current production capacity would be maxed out around 7 tonnes per month.

Could you tell us a little bit more about the production process?

All of our production processes fall under three main categories: pre-roasting, roasting, and post-roasting.

Pre-roasting is all about maximising the quality of the green coffee beans prior to roasting. Once we receive a freshly harvested shipment of green coffee beans, we first check every bag for any signs of contamination or excessive moisture content in the beans. Generally speaking, coffee should be between 10% and 12% moisture content for stable storage. Then, any contaminated beans are thrown out while any overly moist beans are sun-dried to reduce the moisture content to an acceptable level before they are stored. This prevents the growth and spread of mold, which negatively effects the flavour profile. We place the beans in our climate-controlled storage to maintain their moisture content. This ensures the coffee has consistent quality and flavour throughout the year before the next harvest. Next, we hand-sort all the beans prior to roasting to remove any trash or defective beans, again, in order to give us the consistent quality and flavour that our customers have come to expect from us.

Roasting is all about maximising the flavour potential of the coffee beans. Roasting beans from a single origin at a time allows us to showcase the best characteristics of each bean.  Our roaster truly is the crown jewel of our operation, custom-built here in Cambodia, it develops each coffee’s roast profile to within one-tenth of a degree for maximum flavour potential, every time.

Post-roasting is all about maximising the freshness of the coffee that we offer to our customers. After cooling, the freshly roasted coffee beans are sorted through one final time to separate out any broken or unevenly roasted beans, then some of the coffee will be blended with other coffees according to their recipes and others will be ground. All ground or whole bean coffee are packaged and sealed in the bags as soon as possible after their roasting and cool-down.

What is most important to learn in this business?

All the challenges we face, whether it is with our staff or with the Cambodian coffee industry as a whole, ultimately have to do with knowledge. A true understanding of what it means to drink a quality coffee, not to mention its brewing, roasting or growing, is not known by most, even in those that frequent cafés with espresso-based drinks. Understanding that freshness plays a key role in a coffee’s quality has been our focus when it comes to training our staff and how we choose to differentiate ourselves from the rest of our competition.

Kindly walk us through your quality control process.

Our quality control begins with the green coffee beans.  Upon arrival at our roaster, the green coffee is transferred to our climate-controlled storage, which helps to maintain its moisture content. Prior to roasting, we hand-sort through every single kilogram in order to develop only the best flavours during the roasting process. To ensure that our coffee has clean and consistently distinct flavours, we utilise a fluidised bed or hot air roaster as earlier mentioned. A secondary hand sorting will also occur after roasting in order to keep broken and small beans for our ground products only, as well to make sure that any over roasted beans are removed. Finally, we package, and/or grind, our coffee, heat-sealing in that fresh-roasted flavour for our customers.

Where can customers get your products in Cambodia?

You can find Three Corner Coffee products throughout Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in most retail marts and supermarkets, such as Lucky, AEON, Angkor Market, and Chip Mong, as well as in a few locations in Sihanoukville, Kampot, and Battambang.

Any new market you plan to tap into? 

Currently we are looking for partners and distributors to help open up other international markets for our coffee.

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