Since launching in 2013 in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon, Easy Coffee has helped define the emerging specialty coffee scene there, landing on the must-visit list of virtually every coffee-related tourist guide.
For as much as they appreciate the mentions, Javier Phua Jun Xin and Melissa Koh Peck Shan, the Singaporean husband and wife team behind Easy Coffee first and foremost want to create high-level coffee experiences for local and domestic consumers, shining a light not only on meticulous brewing, but also on coffee’s seed-to-cup journey. It’s a journey that Phua believes has the particular potential to resonate with local consumers, as Myanmar itself is taking steps to renew its own status as a specialty coffee origin.
“My aim is clear, to promote the appreciation of delicious coffee by working alongside everyone in the supply chain — farmers, support facilitators, roasters, equipment and accessories distributors — and not forgetting the customers, which entails educating,” Phua recently told Daily Coffee News.
Another husband and wife team, Wan Wan Ong and Yingzhen Zheng, recently joined the Easy team as investors, while occasionally assisting with operations in their free time. The growing company now operates a second Easy café, and earlier this year launched an offshoot roastery called Gentleman Coffee Roasters.
The roasting branch now supplies the Easy cafés with a range of coffees for manual brewing through Chemex, Aeropress and Hario V60, and espresso through Myanmar’s first La Marzocco espresso machine, a two-group Linea PB. The menu is divided into black (espresso, americano, filter coffee and cold brew) and white (latte, piccolo latte, flat white and cappuccino).
In addition to supplying the Easy cafés, Gentleman is also helping promote carefully sourced coffees from more than a dozen countries of origin through wholesale accounts to restaurants, hotels and other cafés. Gentleman is currently roasting on-site in an Easy café on a Diedrich IR-5, although Phua said the amount of recent wholesale inquiries he’s received may soon require an upgrade in roasting capacity and production space.
“[The] GCR Roasting Philosophy is simple: sweet, clean and clarity,” Phua said. “We roast to accentuate where the flavors and mouthfeel take center stage, and roast impartation is minimal to nonexistent in taste. I believe that best showcases the farmer and his or her work.”
While Phua and the Gentleman crew are currently sourcing from a number of green coffee traders — including DRW, Cafe Imports, Mercanta, InterAmerican, Origin Coffee Network, Latorre & Dutch, Falcon and Young In Traders — they also are in the process of establishing some direct trade partners. Naturally, Phua is excited about the prospect of directly sourcing coffees from Myanmar, having recently returned from a June competition cupping in the Shan State.
“I feel the responsibility to promote locally-produced specialty grade coffee.,” Phua said. “Why should only overseas developed countries get to taste the best of coffee-producing countries and not the domestic consumers?”
Phua credited the recent work of Winrock International, who in partnership with USAID and members of the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) last year initiated a long-term program with the Myanmar Coffee Association to help farmers develop quality and sustainable practices, while introducing cupping competitions and other measures to help Myanmar coffees reach specialty markets.
“As for me, I want to procure bags of [Myanmar coffee] that I’m certain my customers will enjoy. At the same time, I want to build relationships with the farmers and assist in whatever capacity I can,” Phua said. “I want to do justice and pay homage to these farmers by ensuring every attention is given, from roasting to brewing and highlighting them in my info cards.”