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20 In Food Envy/ Laos/ Travel

Saffron Coffee Tour – Luang Prabang, Laos

The last time I visited Luang Prabang, Saffron Coffee was one of my favorite places to grab breakfast and, of course coffee. Therefore, I was so excited when I learned that they offered coffee tours to educate their patrons on their coffee and business practices. I actually have a friend who used to work for Saffron and I also have a second personal connection because the founder is from Springfield, Missouri – where I’m from! I’m really excited to have had the opportunity to partner with Saffron because I really love their commitment to the local Lao people and sustainability. This tour was an amazing education on coffee and also gave a really interesting insight into Saffron Coffee.

A Little About Saffron Coffee

Originally the founder of Saffron Coffee started out operating a chicken farm, but unfortunately bird flu hit just afterward. Luckily for coffee-lovers + the families that work for Saffron Coffee he switched to coffee! His focus was adding value to the local economy, producing a high-quality product and focusing on sustainability. That brought them to coffee. Saffron focuses on shade-grown, organic coffee. The company has been successful to the point that there’s currently more demand for their coffee than there is actual Saffron Coffee. Saffron Coffee is currently working with over 800 Lao families.

The Tour

The Process of Growing The Coffee

We met at Saffron Espresso Brew Bar + Roastery which sits just off of the Mekong River in the morning to meet up with the other tour members and our awesome guide, Paul. To start the tour, you get to order any coffee off the menu so you can be alert and ready for the tour. Although everyone else waited until the end of the tour to get theirs instead, I really enjoyed this. I loved sipping my latte while taking the tour and learning about the process that brought me my delicious coffee. Then, we all loaded up in a van for a short ride out to take the tour.

Saffron Coffee Tour The tour takes you out to their offices. In addition to their office, they have a sample plot so you can see coffee growing. They also do their roasting in this facility and this is where their delicious baked goods are created. Typically this is also where the tasting would be. However, because we were there during a certification training class, we went back to Saffron Coffee for our tasting.

Saffron Coffee Tour Paul thoroughly explained the coffee growing process in this sample plot. 

Saffron Coffee Tour Fun Fact: it takes coffee plants 3 years to start producing coffee beans. 

Saffron Coffee Tour   Saffron Coffee Tour

Paul showed us which berries were ready to be picked and then let us sample them to understand the flavor and feel of the bean. This was great because it allowed us to learn more about the bean and the dying process by seeing the different layers of the berry. Paul explained that they have a nursery that grows the coffee plants. When they get tall enough for farmer to grow, they sell them for 1000 kip (about $0.12 USD) to farmers that work with them. Saffron Coffee has found that selling the plants, even for this tiny amount, gives the farmers a sense of value and investment, rather than giving them the plants.

The Roasting Process

Saffron Coffee Tour All the coffee at Saffron Coffee is roasted in this 12 kilo roaster. The drum is heated to extreme heats and the awesome roasters actually start to recognize when the coffee beans are ready based upon the sound of the beans popping/cracking and 12 kilos takes about 17 minutes.

Saffron Coffee Tour Saffron Coffee Tour

We were really lucky to arrive just as a batch of coffee was finishing roasting so we got to watch it drop. As it dropped the amazing aroma of coffee filled the air!

Saffron Coffee Tour Every single bean is checked for quality assurance. Saffron Coffee Tour Smelling the progress of the roast in real time!

During harvest season, the tour would also include a trip out to their processing plant. Unfortunately, we were just a little too early, but considering how much we really enjoyed the tour it would only make the tour even better!

The Coffee Tasting

Saffron Coffee Tour Saffron Coffee Tour

The first thing Paul did for the tasting was show us the different beans and we were encouraged to smell the beans.

Saffron Coffee Tour Oh my gosh, words cannot describe the deliciousness of these baked goods. Each one was unique. My favorite was probably the cheesecake brownie, though. Matt’s was the vegan brownie.

Saffron Coffee Tour Saffron Coffee Tour

Then we weighed the beans for the perfect cup, Paul ground the beans and then each up was individual brewed.

Saffron Coffee Tour After the coffee brewed, we took in the aroma one more time before sampling.

Saffron Coffee Tour To really taste the coffee, you get a spoonful and slurp to ensure the flavors cover your pallet. I felt silly slurping but it was really interesting to learn and experience the correct way to taste coffee. I won’t give any spoilers on the flavors, so you can make up your mind on which is your favorite.

Saffron Coffee Tour Saffron Coffee Tour     Saffron Coffee Tour Lastly, we all had samples of Saffron Coffee’s cascara tea. Cascara is the skin of the coffee berries. By doing this, they’re making something out of a product that’s typically considered “waste”. Plus, it was really refreshing and tasty!

About Little More About Saffron Coffee’s Coffee

Saffron Coffee Tour

Their coffee is shade-grown, organic arabica beans. Every farm they work is is certified organic and the farmers are also trained to grow sustainably. If they start working with a new farmer that has used chemicals in the past, they have to go three years without using chemicals before buying their coffee. They choose shade-grown because it’s environmentally friendly because it doesn’t require slash + burn agriculture. Also, it creates a better tasting fruit.

They buy the cherries directly from the farmers who have been trained only to pick the best cherries. Saffron Coffee only buys cherries within a certain color spectrum (they’re hand sorted) to ensure customers get the best coffee. After they’re roasted, every single bean is sorted for quality.

Why You Should Take Saffron Coffee’s Tour

If you’re a coffee-lover, this tour is simply a must. You’ll learn so much about coffee from growth to consumption. I learned all kinds of little facts, like coffee beans aren’t brown until after they’re roasted. Plus, you get an amazing appreciation for Saffron Coffee specifically when you hear the lengths they go to to provide consumers with the best quality cup of coffee possible while being good to the environment and the local economy. You’ll walk away feeling good about your decision to support this awesome company!

Tour Info

Tours are available Tuesdays + Wednesdays at 8am. The current cost is 240,000 kip (or approximately $30 USD). You get your choice of coffee drink, a tour of the facilities – including transportation, then a tasting of multiples coffees and baked goods.

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Disclaimer: Although Matt + I received complimentary tours from Saffron Coffee, all opinions are, as always, my own.

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Megan Indoe
    November 6, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I LOVE Luang Prabang and am so sad we didn’t know about this when we were there. Its fun that you got to see the entire process from picking the crops to roasting. That’s one way to really appreciate your cup of coffee in the mornings!

    • Reply
      Paige
      November 8, 2017 at 5:02 am

      As far as I know, they’ve just recently started offering these tours. (Which is lucky for us.) They also aren’t really advertised anywhere either. So, we’re glad to be able to help them out with that! When you go back you’ll have to check it out!

  • Reply
    Candy
    November 6, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    I absolutely love tours like this where you get to see the production of the product from start to finish and then taste it! Those desserts look so yummy too. I had no idea it takes coffee plants 3 years to start producing coffee beans. Such a fun fact 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 8, 2017 at 5:07 am

      I had no idea either! I seriously learned so much. (More than I posted, of course, because I don’t want to spoil it for everyone!)

  • Reply
    Tara
    November 7, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    What a spectacular tour! I’m curious about how the raw/unripe beans taste – anything at all like coffee? I love that you got to see most of the process, with tasting at the end. It’s all very fascinating, especially since I’ve never seen coffee growing. I wouldn’t even know what it looked like, if not for your photos.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 8, 2017 at 5:08 am

      Nothing at all like coffee, actually. Haha. It has a fruity flavor, but nothing too powerful. The coffee flavor, I think, has to do a lot with the roasting process. The beans don’t smell like coffee until more than halfway through roasting process.

  • Reply
    Anne @TravelTheGlobe (@TTGLOBE4L)
    November 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    This looks like such a cool trip to make. I honestly had no idea coffee looked anything like that. Your pictures are fabulous and it is only a shame I missed this on my visit a few years back

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 8, 2017 at 5:10 am

      It was a ton of fun! I had no idea that the beans were green. So crazy! You’ll just have to get back soon!

  • Reply
    Adventographer
    November 9, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Being from the PNW I’m a real sucker for good coffee.I’ve never take a coffee tour but i think it would be great to see the inner workings of a small locally owned operation like Saffron. My mouth just watered reading about the smells of fresh roasted coffee! Great photos!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 10, 2017 at 1:17 am

      Ooh. You’ve got access to some of the best coffee in the U.S. then! And IPAs from what I hear! You should definitely do a coffee tour sometime. It’s really informative and makes you appreciate your cuppa. If you’re ever in Luang Prabang, this is one of the best spots to give one a go.

  • Reply
    gastrotravelogue
    November 11, 2017 at 6:54 am

    I would have loved to do this tour, but when I was in Luang Prabang ages ago it wasn’t operating. Being able to watch the entire process must have been fascinating. I did however have a coffee at the Saffron Espresso Brew Bar and watch the world go by.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 12, 2017 at 2:09 am

      It was insanely fascinating. I’m glad you were able to enjoy Saffron’s space. Their food and coffee are both stellar, aren’t they?

  • Reply
    Medha Verma
    November 11, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    This is very interesting for a coffee lover like me. I have never actually been to a coffee farm and coffee tasting sounds extremely exciting! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Danik
    November 11, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Now after reading this (and seeing the beautiful photos), I want a coffee. So want to do this tour now. Cant wait to get to Laos and add this on my list.

  • Reply
    Claudia Laroye
    November 11, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    I love coffee (and saffron too, as it happens), so a coffee tour is right up my alley! I’ve never visited Asia – so overdue – but I’m glad to know that the coffee is good when I do visit Luang Prabang.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 12, 2017 at 2:10 am

      Oh yes. Luang Prabang is one of my favorite places in all of Asia so far. It’s amazing and if you’re a coffee-lover, it’s a must for you to take this tour!

  • Reply
    DebbZie
    November 12, 2017 at 4:16 am

    I feel silly for sniffing the air while reading about the roasting process, hoping I’d smell the delicious coffee aroma, lol. I’ve never been to Luang Prabang before but I’d definitely the tour with Saffron Coffee. As a coffee love (though not a coffee expert), I would enjoy it so much for sure. Can’t wait to taste those yummy baked goods too!

  • Reply
    Carol
    November 12, 2017 at 6:42 am

    This is wonderful! My husband and I consume so much coffee, but felt guilty of the practices of some coffee suppliers, so we make sure we only purchase fair trade brands. Love that Luang Prabang offers tours to show people their ethical practices. And wow! $30 for the tour, coffee and baked goods? That’s an awesome deal!

  • Reply
    Linda de Beer
    November 12, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Now my mouth is watering for Saffron Coffee. This looks like such an interesting tour. You’ve taught me a few things about coffee I never knew, like that a plant takes 3 years to start producing coffee beans.

  • Reply
    Silke
    November 13, 2017 at 1:12 am

    I love taking part in opportunities where you can meet producers and learn everything there is to know about a natural product. Coffee is one of the best things nature could produce, and the smell of roasted coffee beans is pure magic. The tour that you describe sounds a lot of fun. If I ever make it to Luang Prabang I will make sure to visit Saffron Coffee to learn more about coffee production. Thank you!

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