Lao Mountain Coffee Founder Recounts His Journey to Win International Coffee Award

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Mr. Steve Feldschneider, the founder of Lao Mountain Coffee, with his team.

The Laotian Times was in conversation with Mr. Steve Feldschneider, the founder of Lao Mountain Coffee, who recently won an award at the World Coffee Challenge in Spain.

The “Peaberry” blend produced by Lao Mountain Coffee was awarded first place in the Continental Awards for Asia at the World Coffee Challenge, which was held in Ourense, Spain from 29-30 September. Their espresso blend “Mekong Rising” also took first place in the espresso category.

The founder of Lao Mountain Coffee, Mr. Steve Feldschneider, spoke about what made him want to represent Lao Coffee at the prestigious competition, and his desire to introduce the world to Lao coffee, including the supreme quality of green beans and roasted coffee produced in the country.

“I know that Laos is ready now when I saw all the young people getting into the coffee business from farming, wholesaling, new cafes opening, etc. Finally, Laos is getting recognized on the world map,” said Mr. Feldschneider.

The awards and certificates won by Lao Mountain Coffee at the World Coffee Challenge.

He felt that he had a good chance of winning the espresso competition, as Laos makes good espresso, cappuccino, and latte, both cold and hot, but he didn’t anticipate the Peaberry blend winning an award, even though many customers love it.

Speaking about the origins of Lao Mountain coffee, Mr. Feldschneider says that he began to learn the process of roasting coffee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2000 after being invited there by a close friend. Soon after, he visited Paksong to learn more about manufacturing coffee. Five years later, Lao Mountain Coffee opened for business in Vientiane.

Lao Mountain Coffee was the first Fair Trade Organization for coffee in Laos, partnering with Jhai Coffee Farmers Cooperative (JCFC) in 2005. Initially, only about 5,000 tons were being produced and no companies sold green beans, so Lao Mountain Coffee purchased Arabica and Robusta beans directly from several farms before joining JCFC.

Green beans coffee grown in the Bolaven Plateau, Paksong District, Champasack Province.

Peaberry, the winning coffee bean in the competition, as well as several other varieties of beans, are cultivated on the Bolaven Plateau, which is very fertile because of its volcanic soil and is considered the best for cultivating agricultural products.

Thailand and Vietnam have clay soil, which is less fertile than volcanic soil which is rich in minerals such as magnesium and potassium, informs Mr. Feldschneider.

In Arabica and Robusta beans, the Peaberry mutation occurs naturally when a single bean emerges instead of two. One never knows what is inside the cherry until it is opened. The quality of the Peaberry depends on the soil, weather conditions, natural fertilizer, and care.

Mr. Feldschneider noted that most companies in Laos currently export green beans, as Thailand and Vietnam import Lao Arabica green beans. The green coffee beans are roasted for them to turn brown and then packaged and exported to other countries. Additionally, a few companies in Laos do export specialty coffee that is certified organic.

Lao Mountain Coffee at a supermarket.

As the first company in Laos to introduce Arabica Typica and Peaberry varieties, Lao Mountain Coffee hopes to sell other varieties of Arabica and Robusta beans in the future. Lao Mountain Coffee currently sells its products online and in the SEA region as well. Locally, their coffee is available in supermarkets and minimarts like Parkson, Jmart, Dmart, Kmart, and Mini Big C.