CHANGSHA – INSIDE a cafe decorated with ink-wash paintings and Chinese calligraphy, Yirgacheffe coffee beans from Ethiopia are blended with Chinese oolong tea, releasing a unique aroma.
The Chinese tea-flavored coffee has amazed Liu Xuedan, who placed an order at the branch of Yuenn & Yang Coffee in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. “I knew that African coffee had a great taste, but I never imagined it would work so well with Chinese tea,” said the 24-year-old tourist, who is from Sichuan Province.
A traditionally tea-drinking country, China has shown a fast-growing appetite for coffee. According to e-commerce platform Meituan, the scale of China’s coffee industry was estimated at 200 billion yuan (about 27.8 billion U.S. dollars) in 2022, and it is projected to reach 369 billion yuan in 2025.
“In China, coffee drinking has gradually grown from niche consumption to mass consumption,” said Yao Siyi, the founder of coffee product-trading company Cash Coffee.
“Many individual consumers, especially young people, are buying coffee machines and taking classes to learn how to make coffee at home.”
In addition to China’s expanding market, the country’s continuous efforts to simplify import procedures for African agricultural products have paved the way for African coffee to enter Chinese cafes and homes.
China is the second-largest destination for African agricultural exports. In recent years, more categories of “Made in Africa” farm products have appeared on store shelves across China, including coffee from Ethiopia, cashew nuts from Tanzania, cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire and avocados from Kenya.
At Cash Coffee, more than half of all commonly used coffee beans come from Africa.
“African beans boast a uniquely rich fruit flavor, so we’ve blended them into most of our Italian coffee beans,” Yao said.
In Gaoqiao Grand Market, where Cash Coffee is based, about 40 percent of the 2,000 tonnes of coffee beans sold in 2022 were imported from Africa.
The market opened an African coffee trade center in 2020 to promote the import of African beans. Through the center, Chinese buyers can bypass intermediate dealers to sign deals directly with African farmers, thus reducing costs by 30 percent.
The center also serves as an exhibition and distribution center, and as an incubator for new brands of African coffee.
Own Master, or Coffee Z, is one such brand that has benefited from the simplified import process and the greater appreciation of African coffee among young consumers.
Using mainly African coffee beans, the cafe chain has so far opened nearly 50 branches in China and recently raised 100 million yuan in series A financing.
Jing Jianhua, the founder of Hunan Xiaokazhu Coffee, the firm that runs the coffee chain, said that the company’s plan is to open 200 cafes this year, with the majority of those cafes to be located in smaller cities where young people have started to frequent cafes.
“Chinese culture and coffee culture are both inclusive. And the coffee trend in China is to integrate coffee with tea, fermented glutinous rice and local Chinese cultures,” Jing said.
– Xinhua News