We have always enjoyed travel and adventure. Our journeys have taken us down many roads. January of 1987 we stepped off a plane in Bangkok, Thailand. It was around midnight as we descended the stairs to the tarmac. No jet bridges in those days! The hot humid air filled with the scent of tropical flowers and spices greeted us. Little did we know, this beautiful land would become intricately woven into the fabric of our lives.
The next day we journeyed north to the city of Chiangmai, a place we now call home. The beauty of the land and the warm gentle people captured our hearts. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. Truly, the people are the greatest treasure of this beautiful nation.
We were soaking everything in awestruck by the beauty of the mountains and the culture of the people. Walking down a path, we noticed a coffee tree loaded with ripe coffee cherries. “A coffee tree,” I exclaimed to our guide. He acknowledged my comment, shook his head negatively and proceeded to whack the coffee tree to the ground with his machete. Seeing the shock in our eyes, he explained that these trees keep popping up around their village, but the villagers have no use for them.
We researched and found that several years earlier the King of Thailand had introduced Arabica Coffee to the highlands as a substitution crop for opium. The rich fertile soil produced great coffee trees, but there was no market for coffee beans in Thailand at that time. The king’s foresight to help the people through coffee cultivation was simply a vision not yet realized.
We loved coffee, but didn’t know anything about growing and producing coffee as a crop. We knew we were onto something so we headed to Brazil to learn about growing coffee. We implemented the concepts learned in Brazil and were able to initiate coffee cultivation as an economic development project in the highlands of Northern Thailand. Thus the birth of Mai Thai Coffee, superior quality Organic Fair Trade Arabica Coffee.
Over 500 families in over 50 villages are now part of our network of coffee producers. We initiated an interest free micro-finance loan opportunity to help the farmers launch their coffee farms. Our farmers produce a great quality Organic Fair Trade Coffee. We implement strict quality control in our processing from the farm level to the wet and dry processing procedures. Farmers are paid well beyond the Fair Trade value for their coffee. As a result, families are transforming and communities are benefiting from the increased income earned through coffee cultivation.
Charlie and Cathy Milbrodt
Mai Thai Coffee Pioneers
A Dream Come True
My name is Charlie, I am co-owner of Mai Thai Coffee along with my wife Cathy. I’ve been an avid gardener for over 40 years. I have lived in six different states and four different countries. I enjoy growing beautiful pesticide free organic fruits and vegetables. Every location I have lived in, I have sourced organic matter to produce rich compost for gardening. (I must confess, my compost piles started as small back yard compost bins, but have grown to mountains of compost needing a backhoe to turn.)
With that experience under my belt, I was amazed when I began working with rural families in the highlands of northern Thailand. They showed me the locations they wanted to grow their coffee. I could not believe my eyes…beautiful, organic, virgin loam 2-3 feet deep with no rocks. No wonder our Premium Coffee is so good!