The Region That Produces The Majority Of China's Coffee Beans

China's coffee consumption is growing fast. Though China is known for its tea culture stretching back several millennia, coffee — black coffee in particular — is on the rise, says MTPAK. In 2022, coffee drinking grew in China at a rate of 15%, significantly outpacing the rest of the world's rate of 2.2%. Coffee is mostly catching on in metropolitan areas like Beijing and Shanghai, explains US-China Today. Some of coffee's allure is its association with Western culture, making it a chic and cosmopolitan treat in the eyes of its consumers. According to MTPAK, frazzled workers seeking caffeine to help with fatigue and stress further strengthens the connection between coffee and cities. Coffee apps are also increasing in popularity, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.

The rise of coffee in China is relatively recent, explains US-China Today. The first Starbucks didn't appear in China until the 1990s when the China World Trade Building in Beijing opened a Starbucks in its lobby. Yet, as of 2019, a new Starbucks opened every 15 hours in China to meet growing demand. Other international coffee companies, including Costa Coffee and Tim Hortons, have also seen recent success in China.

That said, China is still the world's largest tea producer, and coffee consumption has a long way to go before catching up with the rest of the world. As of 2019, China's yearly coffee consumption per capita was five cups, compared to Sweeden's and Norway's 1,000 cups.

Yunnan province's unique coffee

China also has a vibrant coffee-growing culture, which began in the 19th century. According to Coffee or Die, the story goes that a French missionary named Father Alfred Lietard, who went by his Chinese name Tian De Neng, introduced coffee to China. The Frenchman lived outside Binchuan in Yunnan province, in southwestern China, bordering Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Vietnam. The landscape is mountainous, with fertile agricultural lands and lakes. Craving a cup of coffee, De Neng planted an arabica tree — the first of its kind in the region.

From then on, coffee had a quiet yet consistent presence in Yunnan. It wasn't until 1988 that the region began to industrialize and make efforts to export its coffee, writes Fresh Cup. Now, Japanese Coffee Company calls Yunnan province the best Asian region for coffee.

Coffee or Die explains how Yunnan's geography and climate make its coffee unique. The province is near the Tropic of Cancer, making conditions similar to Colombia and Indonesia. Furthermore, dramatic mountains with steep slopes mean a slower, colder, and drier growing process leaving the beans uniquely sweet and powerfully flavored with fruitiness created by phosphoric and malic acid. As of 2021, Yunnan produces 95% of China's coffee, primarily green coffee beans. With interest in coffee steadily growing and Yunnan at the helm of coffee production, China continues to evolve its interests, tastes, and identity.