Spotlight on China

It is no longer just Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia. China has committed to bringing coffee online this year, both organic and conventional. 

Traveling to coffee origin countries is a thrilling adventure. Thirty years ago very few specialty coffee professionals enjoyed the unique experience of visiting the farmers in a tropical paradise. No one understood how this magical product was farmed. No one knew it was one of the largest commodities in the world. Now in January 2018, over one hundred international Pu’er from many different consumer and origin countries were invited to Puer in Yunnan China, for the first International Coffee Expo. Can you Imagine? China has only been experimenting with coffee for about one hundred years. Tea, is still the drink of choice but coffee is growing exponentially. China will be featured as the portrait country this year at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle.

Ted Lingel, one of the ten pioneers of the SCAA, CQI, the cupping handbook and an ICON of all things specialty, has been working tirelessly in China with Mr. Shuy for the past three years. Mr. Shuy is the Chairman of the Yunnan Coffee Exchange, known as the YCE. They are committed to bringing extraordinary coffee varieties to the world market. Tea and coffee grow well together in China as they do in India. 

China ranks 9th in the export of green coffee beans. Given the enormous resources available in the land, people, technologies, and determinations we can expect China to rapidly move into the top three in five years. This should be great news for the sustainability of coffee production as long as the varietals are delicious. 

The specialty industry worries about climate change, who will farm the coffee in the future, the viability of unique varietals standing up to ROYA and other pestilences. Popular buzz words include conscious capitalism, humanity at the origin, equitable trade, direct trade, transparency and the list continues. China has a vision that will answer these and many other questions. 

Meet Conscious Communism and Regenerative Organic Certification. (ROC) Mr. Shuy, originally from the flower auction in China, has agreed to bring in the new ROC certification written by the Pioneers in organic since 1947, Rodale realized that sustainable is not enough. The word alone is now in the same category as natural and gourmet. Improvement is needed in all areas of agriculture. For decades, consumers have been keeping up with many certifications, trying to balance social justice with a clean planet or saving birds and bees. While navigating the maze of certifications, farmers also must decide what brings the best premium and what does one really need to keep up with market demands while taking good care of the land.

In March 2018, a press release announced that ROC will be online in 2019. The big news for our industry is that China has agreed to be the pilot program for ROC in coffee. See for a full directory on how, why and when this new high bar of agriculture will be launched. ROC will tackle issues of eco-positive farm practices, economic justice and animal welfare, all in tandem. There is no time to work in isolated silos. Ongoing improvement is critical for topsoil survival. USDA says: “Soil is a living and life-giving substance, without which we would perish. As world population and food production demands rise, keeping our soil healthy and productive is of paramount importance. It can take anywhere from 100 to 500 years for an inch of topsoil to form.” ROC will incorporate the bedrock of US and EU standards and has already been approved by IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Movements. Best practices that exist will be joined with new criteria as well. This should cost less for farmers and expedite the entire process of certifications into a streamlined global movement that all cultures can understand. 

If it sounds like the sky is falling, it just might be. Coffee has a role to play in educating humanity. China is stepping up to do their best from tree to cup. ROC will provide China’s coffee farmers with the tools and knowledge needed to nourish and sustain the future and its measures will reach beyond the coffee sector. 

Please join A SPOTLIGHT ON CHINA AT THE SCA IN BOOTH 827.  Meet the newest country to participate in the wonders of specialty coffee and meet the leaders, the IWCA members, and the futurists. You can also sample espresso in a pop-up booth and SAVAYA coffee booth.

Suggested Reading