The Akha Ama Story
Akha Ama Coffee was created by one mother, known as Mae Mee Lor, in the Akha village of Maejantai, Chiang Rai. She had a vision that people of her village could learn to sustainably manufacture, process and market their own coffee. In 2010 Mae Mee Lor and her son Lee Ayu Chipa, members of the Akha hill tribe, founded Akha coffee. Further, they established the business as a social enterprise to support coffee farmers in their village. Lee and family incorporated a mix of Arabica coffee types such as Catuai and Typica which produce much higher quality. Nowadays, Akha Ama now has acknowledgement for it’s calibre of coffee beans internationally.
There are two Akha Ama coffee shops in Chiang Mai and the Akha Ama Living Factory in Mae Rim district. I regularly frequent the Santitham one, Akha Ama Original, sampling coffees whilst working. The other in Chiang Mai, Akha Ama La Fattoria, is close to the stunning Wat Phra Singh temple. I have visited a handful of times as it’s a nice stop if you are exploring the city. Furthermore, Lee often frequents the cafes and on occasions he takes willing groups to see Maejantai.
Focus on Akha Ama Living Factory
In July 2019, my girlfriend, uncle and I travelled north to the Akha Ama Living Factory (photo above). As mentioned, Coffee in Thailand is a subject I have become particularly engaged in. The factory was ‘house like’ in design and illustrated the journey from remote Thailand to international recognition. In addition, I noticed an emphasis on localisation and social enterprise, both of which are themes embodied in the brand.
We explored the ground level, designed like a living room, which had comfy seating for people to enjoy. Additionally, we noticed roasting plants and other equipment used in the coffee production process. The second floor had plenty of natural light and a balcony with excellent panoramic views. The factory is located on wetland, surrounded by shades of green from the trees, rice fields and mountains. Still, the setting had a natural feel with the planting of trees in keeping with the scenery.
Between the three of us we tasted two types of Arabica, Meelor (named after Mae Mee Lor) and Peaberry. Moreover, there were many bean choices and an extensive menu including different coffee blends. I ordered an iced Cappuccino, Boonya and my uncle, a Dirty Latte, these were thoroughly enjoyable. We were able able to choose our desired roast level. Overall, the trip was fascinating and I recommend visiting, perhaps en route to Chiang Dao or Chiang Rai.