The founder of the Genius Coffee business U Ngwe Tun feels there is good potential for the company’s products in local and foreign markets.
While the business is focused on growing, processing and distributing coffee beans, U Ngwe Tun is keen on injecting a dose of innovation into the company.
He says he is looking into making coffee wine from coffee by-products.
“Many coffee businesses just sell coffee beans but discard the husks. I am going to experiment with fermenting raw coffee husks and making wine,” he said.
The company is already turning the pulp of the coffee fruit that surrounds the actual coffee bean, which previously used to be discarded in processing, into what it calls coffee cherry.
This by-product is said to be rich in anti-oxidants. “The coffee cherry made from dried coffee husks are exported to Japan for US$4 (K6300) per kilo. Traditionally, only coffee beans were prized and everything around the bean was discarded, but now coffee husks are used also. This is better for the environment and also provides a new revenue stream for coffee growers,” said U Ngwe Tun.
While traditional coffee products such as ground coffee, coffee powder and canned coffee remain the company’s main income earners, Genius Coffee is exploring innovations like coffee cherry and peaberry coffee.
Set up in 2012, the company started with processing and roasting coffee beans. Since then it has expanded into cultivation and has several hectares of plantations near Ywar Ngan Township in Shan State. By 2014, the company had grown enough to tap into the rising number of tourists arriving in the country around then by providing visitors from around the world with a taste of true Myanmar coffee.
In Myanmar, Genius Coffee products, such as Genius Certified Organic Coffee, Genius Shan Highland Coffee, Trishaw Coffee and Ozi (Burmese drum) Coffee, can be found in shopping centres, supermarkets and convenience stores.
The company also exports raw coffee beans to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the US, Germany, Norway, China and Singapore, while Genius Coffee branded products are exported to Thailand, Cambodia and Canada. It is also looking to open branches in Cambodia and Canada.
Not content with building a burgeoning coffee business and experimenting with new products U Ngwe Tun also created a new model for purchasing raw coffee.
“In addition to purchasing raw coffee from traders, I also set up a ‘change-agent’ model. I couldn’t tell each individual farmer what kind of quality I needed so I picked one leader and educated him about my needs. This leader then teaches others around him the techniques.
“Farmers are friendly with each other. If a company shows up just to buy coffee then it’s all business and this makes it harder to build relationships. However, if one of the change agents is seen to be benefitting from a relationship with us, then other locals will follow his lead. In this way, the locals benefit and we get the quality of beans we need,” U Ngwe Tun said.
In addition to growing, procuring and distributing coffee from Ywa Ngan, the company has ambitious plans to grow coffee in Kayah State with a target of contract farming in cooperation with locals on 20,000 hectares by 2025. The project will include seedling assistance, soil preparation, technology input, purchasing agreements with farmers and market development to find foreign buyers..
“There is local as well as international demand for coffee. The situation is such that the market can absorb all that can be produced,” he said.
“It would be wonderful have a famous Myanmar brand coffee. South Korea is known for kimchi and Thailand for Tom Yum; I wish to do the same with Myanmar’s coffee,” said U Ngwe Tun.