Brewing innovation
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Brewing innovation

Thailand Coffee Festival returns with a focus on sustainable practices and building communities

(Photos courtesy of Thailand Coffee Festival)
(Photos courtesy of Thailand Coffee Festival)

As Thailand Coffee Festival 2024 approaches, anticipation is brewing among enthusiasts, professionals and stakeholders. Changnoi Kunjara, managing director of Cloud and Ground, is leading one of Asia's most interesting coffee events alongside collaborator Nutrada Kunavivattananon, president of the Specialty Coffee Association of Thailand.

Over the years, the Thailand Coffee Festival has transformed from a modest gathering into Asia's largest such event. Scheduled to take place from Thursday until Sunday at IMPACT Arena, this edition promises to continue the spirit of innovation and community-building.

"The event aims to promote and support every position within the supply chain and drive tangible progress in every process," said Changnoi.

"This event is not just about selling products; it encompasses a wide range of activities, including workshops, seminars and competitions."

Changnoi Kunjara, managing director of Cloud and Ground.

Since its inception in 2016, the Thailand Coffee Festival has grown significantly in size and impact. The inaugural event provided a platform for coffee lovers and industry professionals to connect and share knowledge. By 2018, the festival introduced national coffee competitions that attracted global participants, further elevating its status. Last year's event attracted over 85,000 attendees and highlighted sustainable practices.

The festival is a crucial platform for promoting sustainable coffee practices and showcasing Thailand's potential in the speciality coffee market, which is characterised by exceptional quality, unique flavour profiles and meticulous production methods. This year's festival emphasises the concept of "Regeneration", a theme that aims to merge nature, coffee and people.

"Our design aims to maximise resource utilisation based on the concept of 'Regeneration', " Changnoi explained.

"We designed the event structure to ensure the highest efficiency, with a focus on reuse. Materials in this event will be reused at the end-of-year event before being passed on to other locations where they can be further utilised."

A standout of this festival is its commitment to sustainability. From strict waste management systems to carbon offset measures in collaboration with the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization, the event aims to achieve zero emissions.

"The main structure of this year's event follows the 'Every Day Special' concept, using everyday materials like PVC pipes and muslin cloth to create objects such as tables, chairs and shelves. These items can still be used after the event," Changnoi elaborated.

The festival's vision extends beyond the physical aspects as Changnoi aims to create an atmosphere that fosters innovation and community within the coffee industry.

"We're striving to develop the event into more than just an exhibition, but a platform that connects all sectors of the industry," he said. "By creating a 'Connect the Dots' atmosphere, we want to transform the event from a trade show into a reunion-like gathering, bringing together everyone in the coffee industry in one place."

One of the remarkable aspects of the Thai coffee industry is the increasing involvement of younger generations. Changnoi attributes this to the opportunities that coffee farming presents.

"The younger generation perceives opportunities for success by leveraging their resources, such as coffee farms, which reduces the need to compete by travelling to urban centres and enables them to create livelihoods in their hometowns."

The Thailand Coffee Festival also plays a vital role in positioning Thai coffee on the global stage.

"Due to the grandeur of the event, it has become a focal point that has captured the attention of coffee industry professionals worldwide," said Changnoi.

"A major challenge in the global market is Thailand's production capacity. Due to a requirement for elevations exceeding 800m or more, large-scale cultivation of high-quality coffee beans is limited."

Educational activities form a core part of the festival, benefitting both novice coffee enthusiasts and industry professionals.

"We aim to emphasise 'Regeneration' and highlight that everyone in the industry can actively contribute to creative regeneration processes," Changnoi explained.

This involves promoting sustainable options, minimising waste, supporting eco-friendly coffee shops and sharing knowledge to foster a more informed consumer base. The festival's impact has been profound, especially for small farmers and businesses.

"Before the event, we organised activities focusing on farmers or small-scale entrepreneurs by arranging trips and inviting interested participants to visit various coffee-growing regions in the country," Changnoi said.

These initiatives provide new businesses with affordable booths, facilitating exposure and market access. Innovation is another hallmark and this year's event will showcase regenerative agroforestry, an integrated agricultural approach that restores and balances ecosystems by combining various crops with tree planting.

"This agricultural practice aims to increase biodiversity, improve soil quality, sequester carbon, and promote sustainable food and plant production," Changnoi said.

Looking ahead, he envisions the Thailand Coffee Festival continually elevating the speciality coffee industry here.

"The event has garnered global attention, elevating the reputation of Thai speciality coffee. It plays a crucial role in pushing the coffee industry forward sustainably and solidifying its leadership in event organisation."

The community-building aspect of the festival has also evolved significantly over the years, fostering a supportive network among growers, roasters, baristas, and consumers.

"Collaboration in the coffee supply chain builds supportive networks," Changnoi said. Competitions and events have become increasingly popular, driving significant advancements as everyone strives for personal growth.

This year's festival is not just about sustainability in the coffee industry, but also embraces a holistic approach that fuses nature, coffee and people into a thriving community. The concept of "Regeneration" highlights the importance of reviving nature through sustainable coffee practices.

"Growing coffee requires taking care of the soil, water and forest accordingly," Changnoi said. "It's about growing together."

One of Thai coffee's key challenges for competing at the global level is production capacity. The festival has helped overcome this by providing a platform for entrepreneurs to showcase high-quality Thai coffee to an international audience.

"This festival gathers Thai entrepreneurs who showcase high-quality Thai coffee for tasting," said Changnoi. "It has become a focal point that captures the attention of coffee industry professionals worldwide."

Thailand Coffee Festival 2024 takes place from Thursday until Sunday at IMPACT Arena, Muang Thong Thani.

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