We care about the people behind the coffee
The Pa-O tribe of Myanmar is a beautiful people group with a tumultuous history. For years they have been tucked away in mist-covered mountains, unknown by most of the outside world. They have not had access to sustainable income or opportunity that brings hope. Opportunity and hope are precisely what we aim to provide. Behind the Leaf Coffee is only a small part of what we do among the Pa-O. Lilypad Co., Ltd., the parent company to Behind the Leaf Coffee, was established in 2006 to provide business solutions to benefit the community. Lilypad develops low-cost, reproducible technologies in the areas of water, sanitation, agriculture and building. Our projects include ceramic water filters, interlocking compressed earth blocks, natural farming, Moringa, rabbits and stink-free pigs in addition to coffee.
Lilypad Water filters
As in many parts of the world, people in Myanmar have little access to clean drinking water. Lilypad water filters change that. We hand-make the filters out of a specific mixture of clay molded into the shape of a pot that fits inside a 5-gallon bucket. When water is poured into the top, it slowly seeps through the ceramic pot and is ready to be poured from the spout. These water filters are effective, portable, and relatively cheap, making them a perfect solution for this pervasive need. Our water filter factory is located in central Myanmar and employs local Pa-O people in the manufacturing and delivery of the end product.
They aren't bricks
Earthquakes are common in Myanmar. Without structures that are built to last, people are often left vulnerable. Our interlocking compressed earth blocks offer an alternative that is more durable and still affordable. We have erected most of the buildings on our farms out of these bricks and have found them to be reliable building materials. With the right mixture and compression, these blocks stand up to the elements faithfully and, because they are interlocking, are much less likely to collapse in an earthquake.
The base of any culture is its agriculture. We have been offering training in this area to the people of Myanmar for years, expanding their knowledge and earning potential through creative agriculture. Rabbits are a helpful source of income for Inle Lake dwellers who live in stilt houses over water. Even though they have no land, they can raise rabbits in cages underneath their houses and sell them to fine restaurants in Yangon for a good profit. We also teach how to raise stink-less pigs through the types of feedstuffs fed. Because people often live close to their livestock, this is a huge benefit to families with hogs. In addition to livestock, we have offered plant classes to educate on what varieties grow well here and how to plant, prune, and care for crops.
And of course, Coffee
At Behind the Leaf Coffee, we pride ourselves on involving the Pa-O people in the whole production process. From beginning to end we are teaching them how to grow and process their own coffee and earn fair wages for it. We teach farmers who have anything from just a few coffee trees in their backyard to a hundred covering the hillside. No one is too small to be included. In 2018 we had our first open house, inviting more than 500 farmers to come to our processing facility and see what happens after the harvest. For the first time, they got to taste their own coffee. We couldn't do this without our farmers or our excellent staff. We treat them like family. We work hard, but we have fun together and we educate along the way, empowering each of them to reach their full potential. No one else is doing coffee like this.