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" 'Obsessive thinking will eventually wear a hole in your mind' --Michael Lipsey. Word. My brains like swiss cheese." -C. K. Shannon

Friday, 22 February 2013

Akha Ama: Mother of Akha Coffee!

I was on Thai TV! Check out This PBS episode at 9:00 to see the segment about Akha Ama and 10:00 to see me helping out :D
** Many of these photos were taken by Pi Pakee, now studying in bangkok. Kawb Khun Kha!

      Akha Ama Coffee: A Socially Empowered Enterprise. A taste, a space, a community, a family. I spent January as an intern here researching the elements of success of a social enterprise. This one actively counters the profit disparities between farmers and coffee shop owners in the global coffee market, by creating a business with a smaller profit margin in order to actively pay coffee growers more than commodity buyers. I worked in the café for 3 weeks learning the finalities behind the art of pulling the perfect shot of espresso, pouring a cup of drip coffee with maximal flavor, and stayed for one week in the village where the coffee is grown, helping to harvest the beans. The perfect shot of espresso should be evenly sour and bitter and sweet, and the sweetness should linger in the aftertaste… My memories of Akha Ama are all sweet, and I hope the aftertaste lasts a lifetime!

Akha Ama Coffee shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand sources coffee beans from the Akha village "Mae Jan Tai" just three hours away in Chiang Rai province.
           You know what I love? I love the distance that comes with being semi-proficient in a language that makes you blissfully ignorant of social and conversational norms and therefore somewhat immune from embarrassment. It's virtually impossible to be self-conscious because it takes so much effort just to put words in the air. Your main priority is just to speak, rather than try to speak well, with wit, humor or wisdom. That’s what my Thai feels like right now. I don’t realize how I sound until after the words are out of my mouth, so the fear of messing up goes away.
Me, Pi Jenny (barista) and Pi Wee
            The people here make fun of my clumsiness but love me for my effort, and nag me about little things that I do that are impolite (like hold the coffee tray between my knees or put my foot up on a bench to tie my shoe- totally inappropriate in Thai culture) but understand that I forget. They are people working in a business to create more economic opportunities for the families and friends of their own villages.
            One of the most significant things I learned being a part of this place is the vast difference between the livelihoods and lifestyles of coffee growers and coffee drinkers. And Akha Ama brings them both together. There is one thing I am reminded of… how important it is to understand where your food/drink comes from. But we already knew I cared about that :).

Pi Lee (co-founder)
 after tasting one of my shots of espresso: yuck.

Why is it that we only really feel the momentum and scale of things that are important to us when they are about to be taken away? With 3 days until I head back to the US, I’m having some of those days… the days that put butterflies in your stomach, make you feel like you're tumbling down a hill faster and faster, maybe even make you feel anxious and sweaty, but mostly make your heart ache… when you try to re-create and re-live everything you loved because you are afraid the memory isn’t good enough, when you try to do everything you haven’t done, and when you try to hug everyone you care about extra much because you know they won’t always be there. It’s a rush, it’s a numbness, it’s a little bit of trembling, its warmth and its emptiness all at once. And as I transcend through time and space it will morph and change, and go away… but I want to remember the feeling because it represents the fear of everything that I love slipping away from me.

We made bagels, and they loved them! Pi Wee, Pi Too (other barista) and Pi Im (bake master) 
Making "Drip Drop"


Brewing the coffee in the village

The coffee cherries

Right to left: Akha Ama (mother), myself and Pi Gip who I stayed with in the village

The coffee beans after drying in the sun for 1 week

Ready to be picked up and roasted in the city.

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