A better future is percolating for its coffee

From Global development | The Guardian Mon Mar 26 2012, 05:05:30

The spectacular growth of coffee in Vietnam came at a terrible environmental cost. Now conservation groups are working with food multinationals to ensure quality and sustainable production

The velvety coffee slowly dripping from the filter into my glass is bitter and dark. But once mixed with the sweet, silky condensed milk at the bottom, it turns into a rich chocolaty brew. It is a fitting metaphor for the story of coffee in Vietnam.

French colonists introduced coffee here in 1857. The central highlands region - known as Buon Ma Thuot - proved a perfect area for growing robusta beans. But a century later, the Vietnam war devastated the country and coffee production was severely disrupted.

After the long war, the government, supported by development agencies, launched a vast coffee-growing programme in the region to help put the country on the road to recovery. Its success has been astonishing.

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