LAOS PDR – You might be wondering, “What do snakes and bombs have to do with coffee?”

First we have to take you back to 2005 to Laos, Vietnam’s neighbor, where Breyting® learned that the 20-year trade embargo placed against the country was lifted due to changing political systems. It is here in the high mountains that Laos produces a Canephora coffee that rivals Arabica coffees, and is considered by many Europeans to be one of the best coffees in the world.
When we arrived in Laos, we learned that it is not only the rich volcanic soil and the ample rainfall that contributes to the incomparable flavor and depth of our coffee, but the bombing during the Vietnam War. You may be asking yourself…”Bombs did what?” You see, due to bombing during the Vietnam War, farmers were forced to move their crops high up in the mountains to distance themselves from the dangers below. Unexpectedly, the coffee adapted well, developing its own rare and distinctive flavor, resulting in Lao coffee being the only Canephora in the world grown at 1300 meters (4,265 feet).
Because the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran through Laos, the US dropped over 266 million sub-munitions (bombs) on Laos, equivalent to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes for nine years. That’s more bombs than were dropped on Germany and Japan combined during World War Two! After finding out we (as Americans) were responsible for this amazing coffee, as well as the 70 million unexploded bombs that are still killing Lao people today, we felt compelled to take action, so we went to the local village leaders and asked what we could do. Their responses were all the same: help to remove the 70 million unexploded bombs, and provide anti-venom for snakebites. Because of inadequate health facilities, many farmers needlessly die each year from snakebites.
“Without a doubt it was a life changing moment for us,” said founder Ric Coven. It was especially significant for our coffee buyer Jordan Inthirajvongsy, who is both a refugee of Laos and a patriotic US citizen who served in the U.S. Army for four years. What a complex feeling to know the country you love and served bombed your family and friends. Beyond the financial cost is the challenge of locating the bombs, which are scattered across the country. Before water lines, electricity, housing, hospitals, or schools can be built, the bombs must be removed. It’s a labor-intensive, and expensive endeavor. Estimates to remove the unexploded bombs reach into billions of dollars.
Now that we had a plan, we had to come up with a name for this movement. It seems we were drinking the answer everyday: this amazing coffee that helps solve the snake and bomb issues. That is how Snake Bomb® Coffee was born.