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Coffee (Arabica) is grown in Laos on the Bolaven Plateau, an area that is about 1300 meters above sea level - about 1200 meters higher than the town of Pakse, where I'm staying. Driving up you would hardly notice the height: no steep hills, no curving roads or switch-backs, just a steady uphill grade. But when you see Tat Fan, you begin to get a picture of the height of the plateau: Tat Fan falls about 100 meters through a massive cut in the side of the plateau. It's top is below the level of the plateau while its bottom is far above the surrounding countryside.

We visited the Sinouk plantation. They grow coffee and tea, with several other things mixed in - durian being the most prominent. All picking is done by hand, so the kind of plant segregation practiced in the First World to ease machine harvesting isn't practiced. I think we're near the end of the harvest right now - cumulative acres of beans are lying on mats by the roadsides drying. Despite which, this coffee tree was in bloom:

Image 20060115-PakseCoffeeFlower.web.jpg, size 73961 b
Image #20060115-PakseCoffeeFlower
Photo © 2008, Giles Orr 
Last modified: 2008-05-17 by giles