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July 6, 2022

How to drink coffee, eat cupcakes and help build a well in Laos

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Ballina’s Old Coffee Quarter co-owners Yosir Le Cerf and Amelia Hicks PIC: SUPPLIED

Bottled, filtered, or straight from the tap, clean drinking water on the Northern Rivers isn’t generally hard to find, unlike in certain parts of Laos.

Casino residents were this week told to start boiling their tap water before drinking or using in food but at least the situation is temporary – unlike in Laos.

Both the Northern Rivers and Laos feature stunning natural scenery, farming industries and plenty of wet weather and Laos has, since the turn of the century at least, become more popular as a tourist destination for Australians.

Recently, the two places have found common ground, so to speak, in another less obvious but for some, psychologically at least, vital way: coffee.

Smelling the beans in Ballina all the way from Laos

Ballina’s Old Quarter Coffee Merchants Yosir Le Cerf and Amelia Hicks PIC: SUPPLIED

Ballina’s Old Quarter coffee shop specialises in sourcing coffee from what are said to be the lesser known growing regions of Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.

The business has recently launched a new partnership with a farmer cooperative in Laos.

‘Our relationship with the farmers in Laos has been years in the making,’ Old Quarter co-owner Amelia Hicks said in a media release sent to The Echo.

 ‘Importing coffee from a landlocked country adds a whole other level of complexity,’ Ms Hicks said, ‘but now the coffee has landed we’re just so excited to come together with our customers and our community, drink some coffee and send some love back to Laos’.

Waterborne diseases and kids missing school in Laos

The love Ms Hicks refers to is in the form of clean drinking water but no, it isn’t bottled in the Tweed shire: the Old Quarter is raising money to build a new well on the Bolaven plateau in Laos.

Ms Hicks says the Dak Cheung community on the Bolaven plateau had no access to clean drinking water.

‘When we learnt that this community struggled with waterborne diseases and children were missing school to collect water, we saw an opportunity to create a campaign with this exceptional coffee,’ Old Quarter Coffee co-owner and Head Roaster Yosir Le Cerf said.

Mr Le Cerf said the ‘exceptional’ coffee was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the farmers who grew it and would shine a light on the Laos coffee industry.

‘We want people’s first experience of Laos specialty coffee to blow their minds,’ Mr Le Cerf said.

The Ballina coffee roaster said later to expect ‘a textured syrupy body with rich, sugary sweetness and delicious dark fruit, malt and choc biscuit flavours’.

‘It has taste notes of maple syrup, malt and plum,’ Mr Le Cerf said.

100% of profits to go to Laos

The Laos coffee would be available to try on Saturday morning as an espresso, filter or nitro cold brew, part of a fundraising event for the well on the Bolaven plateau.

Old Quarter promised 100% of profits made would go directly towards their project goal of $10,000.

‘The farmers are trusting me to showcase their product in the best light and that humbles me and motivates me,’ Mr Le Cerf said in the media release, ‘but even better, if people love it and keep drinking it we are going to be able to build this well’.

People on the Northern Rivers could sample the Laos coffee and donate money towards the well on Saturday 25 November at the Old Quarter at 2/6 Endeavour Close, Ballinabetween 7.30am and 12.30pm.

‘Guilt free’ cupcakes

But wait, there’s more: supporters of the coffee fundraiser needn’t go hungry. Cupcakes!

Bangalow Bread Co would be donating water themed cup cakes for the event, the media release read, with 100% of cupcake sales headed ‘straight to Laos’.

‘Guilt free treats!’ the media release said.

The coffee shop-owners referred to their social development programs as an ‘Optimism Exchange’ because it wasn’t ‘just the farmers’ who benefitted.

‘Coffee produced by farmers provides immense value to our lives every day, or multiple times a day!’ Ms Hicks said, ‘it’s what we call Daily Happy’.

‘We believe that coffee has the special potential to make the world a happier, better place,’ Ms Hicks continued, ‘as a coffee community, we have the power to positively impact the lives of the people who grow our coffee just as they positively impact ours through the coffee they produce’.

More details about the Saturday morning fundraiser for a well in Laos were available via Old Quarter’s social media and a campaign video.

Anyone wanting to donate or purchase coffee but unable to attend Saturday’s fundraiser could do so via Old Quarters website.


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