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Coffee chic in China.

Coffee chic in China

A young man, having a cup of Maxwell House coffee, smiles and says: "It's good to the last drop."

This coffee advertisement in prime time on China Central Television (CCTV) has almost become a household word among millions of Chinese viewers.

In Beijing alone, dozens of private cafes have appeared in the past few years, and coffee service is provided in hundreds of luxurious hotels and restaurants as well as small bars.

"Coffee, with its particular aroma and taste, has been increasingly accepted in China, resulting in a steadily rising consumption," said Yu Guosheng, an official in charge of non-staple food from the Ministry of Commerce. Actually, the Chinese people became familiar with coffee only 10 years ago when the country started its open-door policy.

Total consumption of coffee in China exceeded 1,500 tons in 1989, five times over a decade ago, with Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and other coastal cities as major consumers, Yu said.

Within China, instant coffee accounts for over 90% of total coffee sales although, on the world market, demand for instant coffee has fallen in comparison with roast and ground coffee.

Imported coffee, such as Nestle and Maxwell House, holds up to 60% of China's coffee market. Chinese coffee sells poorly in comparison, though its price is only half of that for the imported.

Yu attributed the low demand for Chinese coffee to its taste, smell and solubility.

Chinese experts in agricultural, industrial and commercial departments are now taking measures to solve the problems, which they attribute to processing techniques.

Wet processing techniques, widely applied in traditional coffee planting countries, are being adopted in Chinese coffee processors, and advanced production lines have been introduced to guarantee quality.

One such line, imported from Denmark with an annual capacity of 300 tons, has been installed in the Haikou Coffee Plant in Hainan, China's southernmost province. The country's sole instant coffee processor, the Haikou plant turns out top-quality coffee known as "Lisheng" whose specifications, said Zhang Yiazhou, director of the plant, have "reached world standards." The plant exports 10 tons of such coffee to the Soviet Union each year.

More Production Expected

Another production line, from Germany, is being installed in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province in the southwest. Funded by a United Nations Development Program loan of US$1.5 million, the line is expected to go into operation in 1991.

"By then, another 150-ton capability will be added to China's present processing capability of 1,000 tons," said Luo Bing, an official of the Tropic Crops Division under the Ministry of Agriculture.

China's coffee-processing industry has developed only in recent years, according to Luo. The three major processors: the Shanghai Coffee Plant, the Haikou Instant Coffee Plant, and the Sino-US Joint Venture of the Guangtong Food Corporation Ltd in Guangdong Province produce over 80% of the country's annual output of 800 tons. In addition, China has a few of small coffee-processing factories in its coffee-planting areas.

Golden Opportunities

Hainan and Guangdong provinces, in the south, and Yunnan Province, in the southwest, are China's major coffee producers. Located in the subtropical zone, these provinces have favorable natural conditions for large-scale coffee production. Growers call these areas a "golden land for coffee cultivation."

Commercial coffee planting started there in the early 50's but began to flourish only in 1982. The acreage planted with coffee soared to 15,000 hectares in 1989, as against 600 hectares in the late 50's. Of the total, about 3,000 hectares have begun to give yield, producing 1,700 tons of coffee beans that year.

Yunnan produces coffee beans with superb taste, coffee experts at home and abroad claim. The area is endowed with fertile soil, plentiful rainfall, and plenty of sunshine (over 280 days annually). Yunnan coffee beans are used by major Chinese coffee processors, and some of its strains, such as S-288 which prevents rust disease on plants, are transplanted to the other coffee-growing regions.

To increase coffee production, the Chinese government has, in the past few years, spent millions of dollars in expanding the acreage under coffee, developing new strains of beans, training farmers, and improving processing techniques. For instance, in 1988 alone, the government loaned 500 million yuan (US$106 million) to the three coffee-producing provinces.

"We're seeking international cooperation in the coffee industry, said Luo Bing. Feasibility studies are under way. "Our aim is, first, to capture the domestic coffee market, and next, to take our share of the international market."

PHOTO : A production line, imported from Denmark, has been installed in the Haikou Instant Coffee Plant. Picture shows personnel from China and Denmark adjusting the line.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Wang Huimin; Hu Xiaohong
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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