Journey to Akha Ama Coffee: Lee Ayu Chuepa at TEDxChiangMai 2013

Journey to Akha Ama Coffee: Lee Ayu Chuepa at TEDxChiangMai 2013

Translator: Patama Patamajinda
Reviewer: Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut I love to wake up and smell coffee.
What about you? I would like to welcome on stage
my good friend. This is coffee plant. And I also would like to
bring you back to 1985. That was when I was born in a village. This is my house.
Can you see that it’s full of stars? Beautiful light from my home,
that’s from solar energy. I have a beautiful house. That’s probably one of
the most beautiful houses I’ve ever seen in my life. I was born in the lovely Akha family. So [Akha] is my mother tongue. And of course, I study Thai
as a Thai person. Unfortunately, I was born
in a stateless family at the time so my family has no Thai citizens. But in the same year, the Thai government sent the team
from the district office to do the house registration
and documented our family into it. So I didn’t have birth certificate but my Thai government was kind enough to give me 1st January 1985
as my birthday. However, if today in 1985, that’s my real birthday
that my mom gave to me. So thank you very much
for celebrating my birthday today. (laughter)
(applause) This is my village.
It’s called Mae Chan Tai. Some of you must have seen
this village already whether through television or the Coffee Journey
that I organise every year. Can you see that I have one of the most
beautiful villages in this world as well? You can see mountains and mountains, beautiful trees surrounding
the village, fresh air. I was not any different from these kids
running around the village. Very often, we don’t have shoes. We have very little clothes. But we still have very very
good life, happiness. When I was young, my mom told me that
I had to go to school. I had no idea what the school was. So I asked my parents
what school was like. My parents told me that
it’s a four-cornered room and the teacher
is standing in front of you with a stick and a chalk teaching you how to read,
how to write, how to live in this world. I asked them,
“Have you been to the school?” They said no. This is the activity that
always happened in our family when I was in the village. I learned a lot in the school but in the same time,
I learned a lot from my parents. Every weekend, I travelled to the farm with my parents and my siblings. This is the activity that happened
during our lunch break. Exchanging our experiences
and our feelings. On the right hand side is my mom laughing with a lot of happiness. And in the middle, that’s me. And the left hand side,
that’s my youngest sister drinking water from the banana leaf. This is the simple life
that I shared with them. When I was young, I travelled to my school with 4 kilometres
walking from my home and 4 kilometres back home from kindergarten
until finished primary level. Every time that I went to the farm this is what I saw in my plantation,
my parents’ plantation. Can you see that it’s full of vegetables? Coffee trees, like what you see here, persimmons, cherries, peaches… But when I grew up
and I had to go to school then higher and higher education,
we had to spend a lot. And to generate the money
and income in the village, it’s not easy. By growing the vegetations in the gardens
for our own wasn’t enough. My parents had to work harder and harder. I was not understanding anything
about that at that time. But these days, you can see that
[not] many villagers or parents could actually support
their kids to schools. I’m very lucky that
my parents are very supportive. I was the first person from this village
to graduate from university. This is the plantations that we changed from the simple crops
that we grew for our own to the fruits and to many cash crops including the coffee. The villagers back home,
they didn’t drink coffee. We didn’t know the taste of the coffee. But we have to grow because
we need to generate the income for our siblings, for our family. So I was studying in the [primary]
and high school in a temple school because my parents had only time for me but what they say is if you want to stay in a comfort zone,
just stay at home but if you want to see a bigger world,
just go out to study. Since I didn’t have money,
we didn’t have financial support I decided to join the temple school which I stayed for free
and studied for free until I finished my high school. And that, I understand
how I could actually provide the opportunities to others like many people have been
supporting [me] along the way from my home until
finishing my high school. So I decided to go to university
with an English program even though I hate this English language.
(laughter) Fortunately, the university gave me
very good opportunity to study in English Studies and I met many friends who speak very good English and professors from
many different countries. After finishing the university,
I joined Child’s Dream Foundation, the non-profit organization
here in Chiang Mai. I was working there
for three and a half years to help the children in the village camp, migrants learning center throughout
the Mekong sub-region countries. And the last year that I stayed
at Child’s Dream Foundation I had the idea to build
the social enterprise. I didn’t know what to do
so I went back to the village to talk to the farmers,
to talk to my parents. The reason I went back home
was not because I wanted to show I’m smarter
or more intelligent or anything. But I just couldn’t sit
and see the discrimination or the problems that happened between the farmers and the middle man. So I decide to talk to the farmers
to set up the little organisation that I named Akha Ama Coffee in 2010. And I have been working
through coffee farms, working with many customers and those who have the same idea
of helping the community. This is the coffee fruit that many of you might haven’t seen. Before becoming the brown bean
sitting in the grinder it’s actually the fruit
you’d call cherries. The reason that I show this thing, it is how we work together
with different participants. Not just the farmers but people who actually
have the same ideas Not just from Thailand,
but also from different countries to work together to improve
the quality of the coffee that many people believe that
Thailand has very bad coffee. I spent some times to travel around. This has just happened
in the beginning of this year. I travelled to Oregon, Portland to study about coffee roasting,
QC, cupping, everything with Stumptown Coffee Rosters in Portland. To do this, I brought several samples
of coffee back to the village. We roasted the coffee in the wok
and shared the experience to show them what the coffee
from this different country tastes like. Not only that, we bring the people
who actually have the same idea of helping and studying the community
from the town back to the village to see the farmers
through the Coffee Journey. So actually, people who are living
outside our community can see and understand the farmers. And at the cafe, what we do is
we share the knowledge we share the experience to our customers and this is one of the moment
where we shared with the people who came
to visit our cafe. tHEY can be local Thai people
or customers from different countries. And you can see this is
the environment or the situation that goes ON everyday
in the coffee shop that we have. Akha Ama is not only just the branding
for local people, not just Thai people but it’s for everyone
who has the same idea. Our coffee was selected
by World Coffee events in 2010 in London, England in 2011 in Maastricht, The Netherlands and 2012 in Vienna, Austria All this journey that
I want to share is to see that actually, if you have passion
and motivation to help the villagers
or the communities, you can’t do only by yourself but you can work together
with stakeholders, your friends or everyone around you. Can you see that this is the happiness
that happens in the village? They’ve tried the coffee and they can try to make coffee
for their own. This is the happiness that happens. Thank you very much. (applause)

17 thoughts on “Journey to Akha Ama Coffee: Lee Ayu Chuepa at TEDxChiangMai 2013

  1. Lee graduated English Studies Program from Chiang Rai Rajabhat University, not Chiang Mai. He was one of the best students.

  2. เจ๋งค่ะ

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