| Dominik Osele

Our trip to the coffee fields of Pleiku – Day 2 (second part) and departure

Before we set off for the coffee mountains, we meet Dân, Thanh's wife. She equips us with caps for our trip so that the Vietnamese highland sun doesn't burn us Europeans too much. Then we can finally get started.

Thanh has organized a taxi for us from a taxi driver friend. Hiêu drives with us, while he and his wife follow us on a small scooter. During the trip, Hiêu entertains us with all kinds of anecdotes and facts about Coffee24 and the surrounding area. He tells us about the 15 people from his family and circle of friends who work for Coffee24, the "competitors" in the area who destroy the price and quality with monocultures and poor working conditions. The fertile volcanic soil, which in his opinion makes their coffee so special. Seldom has a car journey lasting several hours seemed so entertaining.

The road to the mountains: Watch out, it's about to get bumpy!

We had almost forgotten the real purpose of our trip when the driver warned us that it might get a little bumpy from now on. And he didn't promise too much. Potholes, low-hanging branches and steeply sloping roadsides accompanied us on the way up the coffee mountains. After a while the taxi had to give up because we were stuck. It is not the ideal means of transport at this altitude. Fortunately, we had almost made it up the mountain. "We'll walk the rest of the way," says Hiêu and storms ahead determinedly. In the meantime, Thanh and Dân had caught up with us and together we climbed the last incline, exhausted.

View of the valley from the coffee fields in Pleiku
View of the valley from the coffee fields in Pleiku

Coffee24 wants to give Vietnamese coffee the reputation it deserves

We are rewarded with a sublime view over the highland valley. Coffee fields and rice fields and the smiling sun above us. We seem to have stumbled upon a travel brochure for wild Vietnam without noticing. We immediately see why Hiêu and Thanh are so proud of their plantation. The location is perfect, the valley gets sun all day and not far away there is a natural irrigation facility. Our exhaustion is blown away. We want to get really close to the bean, or rather the flower, and see everything. Thanh warns us that the descent across the fields is quite steep and a little dangerous, but nothing can stop us now.

Coffee24 only uses natural fertilizers made from coffee beans and soybean shells

As we fight our way down through the coffee plants, we understand what Thanh meant this morning by natural plantations. While on industrial plantations the plants are sometimes trimmed to waist height, here the plants sometimes tower over us. They tower over us as tall as fruit trees. We head towards a small hut in the middle of one of the fields. Thanh wants to show us how the natural fertilizer for the plants is made. In the hut, he tells us, they store not only tools but also the ripe cherries until they are transported onwards. Unfortunately, it is not harvest time right now. The ripening period is 2-3 months between October and January every year. The natural fertilizer for the coffee plants is produced in large holes. Coffee bean/soybean shells and leftover coffee and rice are simply buried. After several months, the remains are dug up again and used as fertilizer. "These plant remains have all the nutrients we need for our plants to grow," Thanh explains, "without us having to resort to chemicals. We also make sure that the plants and beans do not come into contact with plastic. We only use traditional tools and machines made of metal and wood," he adds. "Our plantations are irrigated using a small waterfall and a fresh water source."

Irrigation with a waterfall and a fresh water source

We could have a look at this waterfall next, he says, but Hiêu intervenes with a gesture towards the sky. It has now clouded over. Thick clouds are hanging over us, and the wind has picked up considerably. The storm that was forecast seems to be approaching. So we should forego our trip to the waterfall and make sure we get out of the mountains before it really starts. We quickly take a few more pictures, we almost forgot to do so in all the excitement. Hiêu and Dân kindly help us by holding the branches of the coffee plants a little, which are now swaying heavily due to the strong wind. Then we head back the way we came. "I hope you enjoyed it," says Hiêu as he drops us off safely at our hotel a few hours later. Despite the strong wind, the journey home was quiet and uneventful. "Freshen up a bit. I'll pick you up for dinner later, OK?" We gladly accept the offer. Despite our increasing exhaustion, we are already looking forward to our last evening in Pleiku. We have taken the brothers and their families to our hearts.

A woman of the Mẹo, an indigenous people in Vietnam and China, prepares dinner
A woman of the Mẹo, an indigenous people in Vietnam and China, prepares dinner

Dinner with the Mẹo in the high forests of Vietnam

When Hiêu picks us up an hour later, we are in a good mood and ready to end our trip in one of the Coffee24 cafés. But Hiêu has one last surprise in store for us. He takes us to a settlement of the Mẹo, an indigenous people who live in the high forests of Vietnam, China and the surrounding area. The tribe lives just outside of Pleiku in small bungalows with thatched roofs, which immediately give us an almost Japanese impression. Hiêu promises us that the best authentic local food is here. We are excited. To eat, we are supposed to take off our shoes and sit on the floor of one of the huts. The food is grilled on large open fires right in front of us. There is rice pressed into bamboo with chicken and a fabulous "jungle dip" made of pepper and fresh herbs. Plus all kinds of seafood. The atmosphere is relaxed and cheerful, children are running around everywhere, who are of course more than interested in the exotic strangers. We couldn't have imagined our last evening to be better.

The village of the Mẹo
The village of the Mẹo

It's time to say goodbye

Hiêu kindly offers to drive us to the airport the next morning. On the way there, there is a strange atmosphere in the car. On the one hand, we are more than happy with our trip. We lay awake for a long time last night, reviewing the events and talking about everything. We agree: we have found exactly what we were looking for. A local family business where coffee is more than just a way to make money. Reliable partners who not only have the same business values ​​as us, but with whom we can also imagine a long-term collaboration due to their personalities. On the other hand, the trip was far too short. There is still so much to see - to explore. Hiêu told us about a small mountain lake that he would like to show us. A Buddha temple in the middle of the jungle. We would also love to see the waterfall. But all of that will have to wait until next time. In our heads, we are already planning our next visit.

The farewell at the airport

We say goodbye to Hiêu at the airport. He promises to visit our friends in Saigon soon. As he makes jewelry himself as a hobbyist, he is often in the big city. He also offers to come and visit us in Berlin. "At the latest when you open your own café with a roastery. Then I'll show you how to roast Vietnamese coffee properly," he explains to us with a smile. He would also like to get to know Berlin's nightlife, he adds with a wink. We would try everything to make him as welcome as he made us, we promise him and say goodbye with a final hug. The sun is shining again over Pleiku as we leave it for Saigon. We look out of the airplane window a little wistfully over the high mountains and coniferous forests. But we are sure that this was not our last trip to this corner of Vietnam. Team VietBeans (Dominik, Oli, Tom and Tien)

Tags: Reisebericht