When the Malik family first discovered Shangri-La in Yunnan Province, China they were astonished by the beautiful scenery, pristine air and bountiful valleys, with surrounding snow-capped mountains. Shangri-La was a heavenly place, bursting with wild flowers in bloom, bees, butterflies and crystal blue skies with pure white clouds.
The Malik children; sisters Sahra (a graphic designer and art photographer) and Alia (a development economist) and their brother Safi were welcomed by locals with warm smiles. The lives of the local people seemed simple, honest and unspoiled by the cares of the modern world. What struck the trio, however, was that many of them were also poor with incomes of less than 300USD per year. Thus began their passion and dream to help the people of the area. Using their professional backgrounds they began to research the possibilities for creating products inspired by and developed in the environment of Yunnan. They were impressed by the great care, dedication and desire of local farmers in these unspoilt areas to manufacture organic, high quality products and wanted to find a business that would utilise this skill set.
Shangri La Farms – A business built for the people
Shangri La Farms was set up in 2009 to help the farmers in the province to improve their quality of life and give them a helping hand to connect with other markets worldwide to sell their products. Yunnan has the perfect climate, soil type and elevation for the most desirable coffee varieties. Although it is not a traditional Chinese product Shangri La farms spotted the potential and now produce some of the best tasting coffee we have ever tried. The local people also sold excellent honey in the local markets but it wasn’t until Shangri La farms helped them realise their potential and introduced updated beekeeping methods that they were able to create a world class product.
As a socially responsible company Shangri-La Farms can truly impact on the daily lives of the farmers who grow their coffee and keep the bees for their honey. They also work very closely with the Yunnan Mountain Heritage Centre, which oversees many community projects giving back to the people of Shangri-La, the town which inspired their project. Set up by Carter the Malik’s mother, this space houses a school offering English lessons for local children, a library and a shop selling local handicrafts and a percentage of the profits are invested into the centre, which of course also sells their products.
Discovering great products
We currently stock two types of delicious coffee from Shangri La Farms. Yunnan is only now starting to discover the possibilities of growing excellent quality organic coffee. It is a big province and home to various eco-systems, including areas with the perfect elevation, climate and soil to grow world beating Arabica coffee. We also have a large range of 100% natural soap which is carefully hand made using cold process production and taking inspiration from the famous flora of Yunnan. We look forward to introducing further products in the future and are proud to count Shangri La Farms among our first suppliers.
We visited Shangri La in July 2013 and can only agree that it is a wonderful, almost magical place. Our first introduction to Shangri La Farms products was at the Yunnan Mountain Handicrafts Centre.
Our visit was before the fire which tore through Dukezong, the old town of Shangri La in January this year, as reported by BBC News destroying many historical wooden buildings, many of which are over 1300 years old.
We can only hope that the people of Dukezong can re-build and move on as soon as possible. The Yunnan Mountain Handicraft Centre, mercifully spared from the fire, will no doubt be instrumental in the re-building of lives in the town of which they are such a commendable part.