Monday, April 18, 2016

Decaf Option in Vietnam

April 18, 2016
The May issue of Coffee & Cocoa International came out today with our column on the decaf option in Vietnam. (Page 44 - 45.)
Pg. 44 - 45 in the May 2016 issue of Coffee & Coca International
My original text (CC&I's editors improved it).

Decaffeination Option in Vietnam
By Ruth Ann Church, Artisan Coffee Imports
Through a chance meeting with Will Frith ( at Roasters Guild retreat in August 2015, I learned about a new option in Asia for decaffeination. Thanks to Will’s travels and explorations in coffee in Vietnam, he was able to easily introduce me to a relatively new player in the decaffeination world: Hiang Kie Industries Limited (HKI). HKI began operations in 2007 and was the first decaffeination plant set up in the Long Thanh Industrial Zone in Dong Nai Province, Vietnam, (about an hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City). They process using methylene chloride (MC) for a solvent.
The company runs two decaffeination plants, one can handle smaller batches than the other. They process beans from all coffee regions: South America, Africa and Asia. The minimum batch size is 2.5 MT, or about 5,500 lbs., which is about 42x 60kg bags. What intrigued me about their service is their transparency. With relatively little effort, their sales representative answered my questions about process details and costs. It is a “direct” MC process, meaning the beans soak in the solvent, and then the solvent, with the caffeine, is removed. Of the different MC processes, this one has always been my favorite. It seems the simplest and “cleaner” than the indirect process. It seems to offer the best chance that original coffee bean is left intact as much as possible.
Hiang Kie offers two types of dryers. A drum dryer takes about eight hours to dry the coffee and a vacuum dryer takes about three hours. Total processing time about is about 14 to 16 hours depending on the type of beans.
I was eager, so Dinesh Bhojwani, Hiang Kie’ sales representative, arranged to send me three samples: a Colombian, a Brazilian and a Vietnamese Arabica. All were decaffeinated at Hiang Kie and they all cupped quite well. I admit I was surprised, having lived my entire “coffee life” believing Vietnam can only produce low-quality robustas. The Colombia was my favorite. It retained a lot of its acidity and fruity notes. The Brazil had typical earthiness and body of a Brazil natural. The Vietnamese Arabica had brilliant aroma with sweet cherry and dark chocolate. Admittedly, much of this amazing aroma was tempered in the brewed cup. But this decaf Vietnam still had smooth body and minimal bitterness in the aftertaste. So if you’ve been wondering whether to try decaffeination in Asia, HKI would certainly be worth considering.

Ruth Ann Church is President of Artisan Coffee Imports (, an importer and trader of specialty green decaffeinated coffee. She can be reached at Artisan is now offering consulting at origin for work related to sustainability and impact assessment. Ruth Ann has advanced IDP training and is Q Grader (in the process of re-calibration). She is currently studying for a second master’s degree focused on the coffee value chain and sustainability at Michigan State University.

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