Thoughts on Myanmar Refugee Crisis

We are very proud of being one of the first roasters in the world to offer coffee from Myanmar, and given international concerns about the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and more specifically concerns several of our customers have raised with us about purchasing Myanmar coffee, we wanted to provide here a brief statement. As a team we debated whether this was necessary, since it seems a little self-aggrandizing for a coffee roaster to have an “official” position on an undeniably tragic international refugee crisis. While our statement can make no real difference, we feel the need to speak up to support the Myanmar coffee industry. 

We have worked hard to support the specialty coffee industry in Myanmar, from Joel’s work with international aid organizations, to our Port to Cup Tour last spring, and through our continuing relationships with our growing partners. In the end, we decided to provide this information because it is important that you continue to purchase these coffees, be it from us or from others, and continue to support the hard work of the growers and the international organizations that aid them. 

Myanmar is emerging from decades of economic and social isolation. The violence against the Rohingya is not a collective effort that was voted on by the general population. The agrarian communities that grow coffee likely have less knowledge of the events in the Rakhine state than we do.    

To our knowledge, our coffee-growing partners are in no way involved with the persecution of the Rohingya people. The coffee growing regions we source from are far from the Rakhine state, located in the northwest coastal region where the Rohingya people are. This season, we have sourced two microlots from Myanmar. Tha Pye Gone is a coffee produced by locals in the village of the same name, with the help of Lilypad, a charitable organization led by Melanie Edwards. Melanie has been living in rural Myanmar for 15 years, and this project is a part of her work to provide viable livelihoods to rural communities. Green Land, our second coffee, is grown by Sai Wan, whose family opposed the military dictatorship that largely began the oppressive policies against the Rohingya.      
These are our friends and business partners, and we do not believe coffee growers should be punished for the actions of a military that are outside of their control.

Here are some links we found useful in trying to better understand the situation: