Coffee Taking Root In The Land Of Oolong

    One Taiwanese businessman has found a way to avoid many of the setbacks that coffee growers in southwest China have encountered: he's started a coffee farm in the coastal province of Fujian, the traditional home of oolong tea.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    Growing Conditions In Southeast China's Fujian Province Suitable For Premium Coffee Beans#

    Last year, Jing Daily asked the question, "Could China become a top gourmet coffee producer?" Noting major investments by companies like Starbucks in southwest China's nascent coffee-growing industry and the steadily growing popularity of coffee in the traditionally tea-drinking nation, we pointed out that although the growing conditions in Yunnan province are ideal for growing high-quality coffee beans, the development of world-class coffee from Yunnan is hindered by inadequate infrastructure and often difficult transportation.

    However, one Taiwanese businessman has found a way to avoid many of the setbacks that coffee growers have encountered in southwest China -- he's started a coffee farm in the coastal province of Fujian, the traditional home of oolong tea. Though it's still relatively new, this businessman's farm is already benefitting from Fujian's rich soil and ample rainfall as well as its well-developed transportation and distribution networks.

    From Shanghai Daily:

    Visitors to Fujian Province's Tulou World Heritage Site - an ancient fortress-like earthen communal building - usually take home bags of Oolong tea leaves. But now, they have a new choice of souvenir, locally grown high-quality coffee.

    The coffee farm, the brain-child of a Taiwanese businessman, is nestled in the mountains of Nankeng Town in the port city of Zhangzhou, where traders for centuries shipped Oolong tea to Southeast Asia or across the Indian Ocean.

    Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea somewhere between green and black in oxidation.

    "Despite a deep-rooted tea culture, as China's economy develops, there will be a huge market for coffee. Imagine if you want to ask a girl out in Shanghai, would you invite her to tea or coffee?" says Huang Wenkuang, who started the Nankeng Coffee Farm two years ago.

    A veteran construction contractor in Taiwan, 57-year-old Huang first arrived in to Nankeng in 2005 to build himself a private resort, but the idea of a coffee farm soon struck him.

    "There is not much high-quality brewed coffee available on the Chinese mainland," Huang says. "Just as low-grade Chinese tea is exported to regions where people don't know good tea, low-grade coffee beans are imported to China because traders think tea-drinking Chinese cannot tell the difference."

    In today's China, more young people are switching to coffee for their morning jolt, but most of the 30,000 tons of coffee consumed by Chinese each year is made from low-grade beans.

    Among a few domestic coffee brands, only Hougu, of the Yunnan Province-based Dehong Group, has become a major supplier to global coffee giants like Starbucks.

    Huang not only wants to grab a share of the market, he aims for something noble.

    To start, he brought from Taiwan the seeds of Arabica coffee and a few of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and leased 6.67 hectares of land from the Nankeng government.

    "The mountain slopes in moisture-rich Nankeng, which resemble home of Blue Mountain coffee in Jamaica, are ideal for growing good coffee. The quality of the beans will be improved with Taiwanese farming expertise," Huang says.

    As the article briefly touches upon, the well-developed growing and shipping infrastructure of Fujian province -- built up by tea traders over the course of several centuries -- could give Huang's farm a distinct edge over his counterparts in south China in distributing its coffee not only throughout China but overseas as well. However, it's hard to say right now whether coffee grown in Fujian is as good as that grown in hotter, more humid southwestern provinces like Yunnan or on Hainan island. No matter what, the development of China's premium coffee industry will likely continue to gain momentum in coming years, particularly as Chinese coffee farms grow to the point that they begin to compete with farms in Vietnam and Indonesia, which in the end will certainly be a good thing for consumers.

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