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Coffee and pepper with a Ukrainian twist

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Ukrainian businesswoman Elena Serdiuk stands ready to greet customers in her innovative new shop. Photograph: Michael Scholten

Ukrainian business woman Elena Serdiuk and her Cambodian staff are spicing up Siem Reap’s business sector with a new retail outlet, Kampot Pepper & Coffee Shop, which features free degustation of local coffee and sells certified high quality products from Cambodian plantations in Kampot, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri.

Elena Serdiuk worked as a marketing expert in her hometown Kyiv and as a Russian speaking travel expert in Cambodia, before she started her business in 2011.

She looked for ways to work and stay in the Kingdom and realised working with pepper and coffee could hold the key because those products met high international standards.

She created marketing strategies to promote local brands and make their good reputation even better.

Her shop is Siem Reap’s exclusive distributor of pepper from Kampot-based Starling Farm, whose products have a Protected Geographical Indication standard from the Cambodian government and the European Union. 

This pepper is organic and grown using only natural fertilizers such as cow manure and bat guano.

Elena Serdiuk organises free seminars on Fridays to teach tourists, expats, locals and tour guides about pepper and coffee.  “Our policy is not only selling the products, but also explaining them”, she said.

A native English speaker talks about the millennium-old Cambodian history of pepper, noting that the Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan mentioned this spice in his reports about Angkor in 1296.

The French colonization of Indochina in the nineteenth century brought Kampot pepper to tables of the western world and "pepper fever" broke out in France.

After the Civil War, Cambodia recovered slowly and today produces much less pepper than its competitors such as Vietnam and India.

Cambodia sits in eighteenth place in the ranking of the world’s 80 coffee producing countries, producing 66, 000 tons annually.

Elena Serdiuk promotes products from Three Corner Coffee Roaster, a social enterprise started in 2010 by Texas-born missionaries Kirk and Kelle Richter.

Their enterprise encourages the industrial development of Cambodia’s coffee industry and produces high quality Khmer coffee for responsible consumers.

“The unique soil of Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri is excellent for growing Robusta coffee,'' Elena Serdiuk said.

In December she will expand the product range by selling sea salt from Kampot and palm sugar which she says means she will be purveying, “The four elements of our table: pepper with salt, and coffee with sugar.”

While tourists and expats in Siem Reap are the main target group now, Elena Serdiuk wants to expand her business to eastern Europe in the future.

That means, if she succeeds, Vladimir Putin might enjoy Kampot Pepper and Ratanakkiri’s Robusta in the Kremlin soon.

Kampot Pepper & Coffee Shop: #10, Street 7 near Pub Street, open from 11am to 10.30 pm. For more information: 085-881-153.

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