China's remarkable coffee

Green Beanery introduced Yunnan Coffee from China to our inventory last month and we're very excited about it. In part, because China's impressively long history of many things does not include coffee and it represents a curious adventure for us. And you.

Filling in some of this wonder with fact, is a backgrounder written especially for us by environmental consultant Sun Shan, now based in Canada, who visited our Yunnan Coffee supplier, the Xinzhai Coffee Co-op, and Xinzhai village where our new coffee is sourced from.

Beyond the village slopes is the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve

The end result is "China's remarkable coffee" - Sun Shan's findings published by Probe International (Green Beanery's sister organization). Sun writes Xinzhai Village, where the co-op is based, is not even identified on Google Maps, which isn't uncommon for rural places in China's top-down system of governance. The closest location Google Maps provides is one administrative level up. But just because Xinzhai Village isn't on Google Maps doesn't mean it isn't something, sloping as it does toward a famed mountain range designated as a national nature reserve known for its unique biodiversity. Xinzhai is located within Yunnan, the country's southwestern-most province, bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, a popular tourist destination noted for its spectacular scenery and range of animal and plant life. Yunnan is also one of only two provinces in China growing coffee: the other being the tropical Province of Hainan Island.

The founder of Xinzhai Village Coffee Co-op, Xie Xianwen [pictured], first sampled coffee travelling for work and was shocked by how much a cafe in Yunnan's capital city charged - a cup of jolt in more ways than one and enough, writes Sun, to buy a family of five food for a meal at the time. Sensing opportunity in the liquid gold before him, Xie returned home and convinced his mother to convert some of the family's land to growing coffee.

Now 15 years later, and 10 years after Xie founded Xinzhai's coffee co-op, he and his colleagues are expert growers, comparing their most prized bean to the best gourmet coffee in the world and have just inked a deal they hope will promote their coffee through specialty tours to the area.

Within China, however, Xinzhai struggles for a share of the market. Many Chinese, Sun is told, purchase coffee online from all over the world for cheaper. Mr. Xie tells Sun he will not compromise his harvest and pay workers on a pay-per-pound system that would encourage them to rush and jeopardize the quality of the beans.

"The enterprise is obviously worth it," concludes Sun. "Today, most of Xinzhai’s 500 families grow coffee. It’s an impressive scene to drive up to the mountain-side village. The coffee plantation dominates the landscape, and the village’s income landscape as well these days. Thanks to their rising incomes, many village growers have rebuilt their homes using better materials and improved insulation."

To read Sun Shan's account in full, see China's remarkable coffee.

To sample this assertion for yourself, browse our selection of Yunnan Coffee here.

Sun Shan is currently a market gardener, eco/agro-tourism leader and environmental consultant. She and her family started Chi Garden in 2015 in Inverhuron, Ontario. Prior to her Canadian life, Sun Shan was the executive director of Shan Shui Conservation Center, based in Beijing, and worked in the mountainous region of Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Tibet. She first visited Yunnan’s coffee-growing Xinzhai Village at the foot of the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve in 2007, and could not stop (and hasn’t stopped) telling people about it ever since. She returned to visit Xinzhai in October 2015.

Lisa Peryman
Lisa Peryman


Lisa Peryman has worked with Greenpeace Australia and The Wilderness Society (Australia). She studied journalism in New Zealand and book and magazine publishing in Canada. Her background includes reporting and editing for daily newspapers and trade magazines, as well as creative copywriting for broadcast. Lisa is continuing her studies in Canada and currently works with Probe International as an editor and writer. Earnings from Green Beanery operations support the work of Probe International, a Canadian charity that works with citizens' groups around the world to protect their lands and their livelihoods. Probe International is a Canadian trust.