It starts with LoVE.
We all have stories to tell and we all love a good story. Stories can shape our perspectives. They touch our hearts and create bridges. Whether you have painful or beautiful stories when you go traveling, stories made of your memories, and your memories make you different.
Have you made your list of Coming Back destinations? The places, the people you want to meet again no matter time? Apart from some fabulous tourism places, there may be a restaurant, a coffee corner, a farm garden that you stopped by in your trip, and unplanned result, you discovered there is Love, a soul in that destination you want to come back to?
I'm writing this entry when Valentines is coming. Valentines is beautiful, love is beautiful for a single lady like me, as I feel the love from people who start their business with Love; who pour their hearts into it. Nothing is ever made without Love.
When I started Social Enterprise Experience Tour, I wanted to be able to tell stories that are relatable and inspired; stories that promote social responsibility and have a positive impact. The most logical place to start doing that was to emerge myself in a place where i was a stranger too: Dalat City. It is my business partner’s homeland, and for me, despite not having grown up in Dalat, it is still the city where my soul and my social start-ups’ journey began.
Deep in Lang Biang Mountain we find a K’ho village on Lang Biang Plateau, Lac Duong District, it is a community of K’ho ethnic people who work hard to produce and roast authentic Arabica coffee and make beautiful traditionally woven K’ho brocade textiles. Vietnam is well-known to be the worlds’ second place of coffee plantation and exports, and with its long history in coffee plantations developed by French colonies and K’ho people in the past, the K’ho coffee nowadays is changeling the coffee plantation techniques from past generations. Unlike the fast coffee plantation process that uses lots of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, the K’ho coffee gain Organic certification with a smart permaculture planting system the K’ho commune grow their farms with. The permaculture plantation process is long and adventurous, and to an observer, it might even look painful. But the resulting product is impressive and touching, especially when one thinks of the K’ho start-up stories and heritage of organic coffee and their culture.
One of the greatest organic coffee is the K’ho Coffee House, founded by a K’ho woman and, also, the leader of the K’ho commune, Rolan Colieng, she is well-known for her role in developing K’ho tribe’s economy with high quality and authentic organic coffee, and preserving the traditional K’ho heritage with community tourism. I visited her coffee house and coffee farm in a summer of 2016 when I was upset about my work life. Having met Rolan and enjoyed a cappuccino at her fairy-like coffee house was one of the amazing experiences I’ve had in my life. She gave me an insight into her start-up life, one of passion, talent, skills and perseverance. She was eager to pass on this coffee plantation heritage, told me:
“I used to work in a bigger company, with better salary and professional environment, but I was not happy to see that it was just me who was lucky to have job. Then, I started with a coffee shop, and started planting Arabica in my home garden, I wanted to create jobs for K’ho families in my homeland. It was hard at the beginning as I didn't know anything of Marketing or Finance, I wanted to make a business bigger and bigger, then I got distressed and worried a lot. I lost the first coffee shop easily. The Arabica coffee garden was not well-developed, it couldn't be as productive as Kinh* coffee farmers who can afford to paid good fertilizers, chemicals and machines for their coffee farms.
[*There are 64 people ethnic groups in Vietnam, “Kinh” group is the most crowded majority population in Vietnamese. K’ho group, alike Dao, Thai, Hmong, Cham are the less majority groups in Vietnam and they live in different areas, mostly in countryside or mountain areas.]
One day when I had a tour to guide American tourists in Dalat (she is sometimes a tour guide in Dalat since she quit her job), I met my husband- Joshua Guikema, he is an aggrotech engineer and loves coffee like I do. We discussed a lot about Vietnamese coffee, agriculture, and permaculture. We fell in love each other, and I soon fell in love with permaculture. I saw a new entrance to help K’ho coffee product: authentic organic coffee! I threw away all the old coffee trees, restored the soil, planted new trees, build new house for coffee, and most of all, I’m now learning from my father and elder people our traditional coffee farming.
Now my happiness every day is very, very simple: I drink a cappuccino in mornings at my office - home, roast coffee with my husband to deliver it to Saigon, then I help my father with the farming work, I also teach my children English and Vietnamese, so one day, they can have better future. My happiness is to see mushrooms growing under coffee trees in my gardens, enjoy coffee-honey and the Organic coffee fruits harvest season in September, I know now that if I keep believing and LOVING my homeland, I shall have sweet fruits”.
The Coffee Village in Dalat and the coffee lovers’ community is growing.
“Loving is believing. And I keep my belief and faith in my people that they are good and smart, and if I give them tools, they will do wonderful things with them.” - Rolan shared with me when I asked her what did she want to see in the future with her organic coffee farm.
Modern life sometimes make culture and heritage a bit impractical for the newer generations to continue with the old ways. We have lost many ancient traditional agriculture heritage, as well as food, spiritual, and mental practices that somehow, we now eat and drink unhealthy, increase pollution and live in unhealthy environments. The K’ho coffee in permaculture farming, is the authentic coffee planted with the Love of this entrepreneur couple who have dreams to raise cultural tourism with eco-farming tourism.
There are many people working with local minority groups and local artisans to sell brocade products and Dalat coffee for tourists; but to me, the K’ho coffee is the first one that makes its unique specialty in pursuing a fair trade and sustainable profits to K’ho commune and Dalat environment by organic coffee, K’ho homestay and eco-tourism service. It is a real pleasure and luxury to enjoy breakfast with coffee-honey, passion fruit jam, goat milk, cappuccino and bread at K’ho Coffee House; spend over 7 kilometres trekking to the coffee mountains and do farming there; and another pleasure is spending a yummy hot homemade pizzas in the cold of Dalat at my personal favourite family restaurant K’be Pizza & BBQ.
It is a real challenge to drive a motorbike to Lang Biang mountain, of about 2,169 meters’ high above sea level, but that is Rolans’ walk to her farm every day. And finally, to coffee lovers, it is a real pleasure to harvest red coffee fruits in September, roast the beans and enjoy the dark heavenly smell of coffee patiently made by the organic farmers and the Mother Nature when we love Her back.
You will know that one’s purchase directly benefits a community and preserves a cultural heritage, environmental beauty, he will live slower and love slower. He will know that success is not always can be seen easily, and so does love. Enjoy your small happiness and keep believing your journey, the tomorrows will tell you future.
Some more photos at K’ho coffee.
Find out more about K’ho coffee and book farm days at K’ho commune, please visit their website: http://www.khocoffee.com/