China is looked at as one of the UK’s newest coffee origins. Importers like Indochina have been working with producers on the ground to bring over the first high quality lots from the country. Because China is entering the speciality coffee market so late in the game, there are a lack of established modalities, forcing rapid quality improvement.
The biggest challenge here, as with many origins, is the mix of cultivars, picking, and processing. The cultivars are typically catimors which don’t always create the sweetest cup. There is a lot that producers can do during the growing process to help with this, and slowly these skills are spreading. Picking only the ripe coffee is a challenge. The climate in Yunnan, where most of the coffee comes from, is wet, so drying well is a growing skill.
History of Coffee
Coffee came to China in 1892 by way of French missionaries who were living in the Yunnan region. They lived in a town called Zhukula, and from there, cultivation stayed small and was used primarily for domestic use. In the late 80’s, China began to work with the UN and the World Bank to bring coffee production to an industrial scale. This project remained quite small, and it wasn’t until the late OO’s that larger-scale coffee production really took off. Until quite recently, the primary focus was not on quality, but on volume. As the production industry grew, so did a quality awareness.
Now over 90% of the country’s Arabica coffee is grown in Yunnan, with the regions of Fujian and Hinan growing primarily robusta beans. One of the biggest challenges of exporting coffee from China is ensuring quality retention from the moment the coffee is produced to its arrival in the roaster. This is where a lot of the earlier exporters have done good. They have brought the methods and standards from other coffee-producing countries to this young origin.
Kiss the Hippo & China
With China being such a new origin, we are excited to work with our trusted partners, Indochina. They were the first British company working there, and their small team of two means that they are involved in the whole process. Our first coffee from China is called Ou Yang. It’s a small lot of naturally processed coffee from Yunnan, and it shows just what great Chinese coffee can be: sweet, interesting and delicious.
Kiss the Hippo Team