The China Blend: Country's coffee farming and consumption both on the rise
Posted: Jun 12, 2012
For the past decade, industry folks have discussed China’s potential to become a major specialty coffee player. At April’s SCAA Expo, in fact, an education session was devoted to better understanding that market. China’s growth is now quickly becoming reality—and it’s happening on both the sipping and planting fronts.
A story this week from New Zealand news network Stuff demonstrates how one coffeehouse chain is looking to capitalize on Chinese consumers’ growing taste for better beans—and beans in general. Esquires, a company that roasts organic and fair-trade coffee in New Zealand, currently has eight stores in Beijing and is aiming to have 250 outlets across the country by 2019. “In China, we’ve got about 350 million middle class and they all love coffee and wine,” Ellen Zhang, Esquires’ managing director for China, tells Stuff. Esquires is not the only foreign company rushing to the Mainland. Yahoo Finance recently reported Starbucks is opening one shop every four days, and U.K.-based Costa Coffee is looking to establish itself as an upmarket option.
What’s particularly intriguing about China’s current consumption increase is that it’s dovetailing with the country’s efforts to become a major production player. One Chinese agricultural company recently announced efforts to transform Yunnan province (long known for its tea production) into an “international hub” for coffee growing. That’s the same area of the country where Starbucks has launched a coffee-growing venture, the company’s first foray into production.
China isn’t the only country developing a thirst for specialty. Brazil and a handful of other producing countries have done the same as their economies grew in the last decade. But China, with so many fast-growing cities and so many international ties, represents a completely unique beast. Will consumers there grow to demand coffees produced in Yunnan and other domestic regions? Or will foreign chains instill an expectation of a variety of coffees from across the globe?