Originally, coffee started to be planted in Sabah during the administration of British North Borneo, but only focused in the area of the east coast on the forest reserve near mangrove areas. However, due to an outbreak of disease, it was abandoned in 1910. Since then, coffee production was concentrated in the west coast area. Tenom received attention when the British North Borneo Chartered Company (BNBCC) established coffee and other plantations in the area. To take the resources to major towns, a railway line from Melalap linked Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) was built by the British in the late 1890. To increase the coffee production, many labourers from China, mainly those of Hakka and Cantonese descent were brought to Tenom by the British as local workforce. Today, Tenom is widely known as an agriculture site with large coffee production and has been dubbed as the "Sabah's coffee capital". Together with cocoa, rice field and fruit crops, coffee is the second largest contributor to the Tenom agriculture economy after rubber. Due to its large demand from other countries since 2010s, the government began to help to address the shortage of raw coffee supply in Tenom.
Tenom coffee is made from Robusta variety. The coffee bean was processed using traditional firewood and drum rotation methods followed for almost 50 years without adding any artificial ingredients or colourings.
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