EXPLORING THE LAND OF FLAVOURS
The Central Highlands cover approximately 51,800 km2 of rugged mountain peaks, extensive forests and rich soil, accounting for 16% of the country’s arable land and 22% of its total forested land.
The Highlands’ five contiguous plateaus are from 500m high in the North to over 1,500m in the South.
With a tropical climate and rich basalt soil, the Highlands are the natural home to Vietnam’s coffee, with Buon Me Thuot & Cau Dat being two major centers of production.
On a Northern plateau at an average height of 600m, Buon Me Thuot is well-known for Robusta production.
The Robusta beans from Buon Me Thuot locality is recognized for its heavy body and taste complexity.
Cau Dat is a region of over 1’500m height with a perfect condition for high quality Arabica (aka Mocha) growing.
The Cau Dat Mocha is the most sought after specialty coffee in Vietnam by world’s major coffee buyers.
As a hybrid cultivar between Caturra and Hibrido de Timor—the Cau Dat Mocha is best known for its rich aroma and clean acidity, totally different from Catimor of any other origin.
And the much cherished yellow cherry Typica which was the first to be farmed in this region hasn’t been writen off yet. It low yield once drove it to the verge of extinction now turns its traditional flavour into a much appreciated rarity.
Robusta farm in Daklak and Cau Dat region, Typica cherries.
In the first half of the 20th century, Vietnam’s Central Highlands were sparsely populated by mostly ethnic peoples, and the coffee farms there were still surrounded by extensive tropical jungles which were home to many wild animals.
It is said that every year from September to December when the coffee cherries got ripe, the wild civets were often seen coming out of the jungle in night time for this sort of speciality. With a super sensitive sniffing ability, they only picked the fleshiest and sweetest red cherries. Within the night, they would release their faeces out with the beans intact in endocarp shells.
In the morning, coffee farmers collected the fresh droppings and dried them in the sun. From these droppings, they made the Cà phê Cứt Chồn – or literally Civet Faeces Coffee – the Legendary Coffee that whoever tasted once would remember forever.
In the later half of the 20th century, waves of new population came to the Highlands.
As it became more densely populated, the more soil was reclaimed for coffee farming, the further the jungles shrunk.
And as a matter of fact, more civets were hunted down for food.
Over time, the enormous Highlands became almost fully covered with coffee farms, the jungle could only be found in faraway mountains or in a few national reserve parks, civets became a speciality in luxury restaurants.
Every year in coffee crop from September to December, the wild civets were no longer seen coming into coffee farms for the cherries.
The legend was dead.