In 2020, 19grams stocked a coffee from China for the very first time, becoming one of the first European specialty roasters to offer a Chinese coffee. These unique beans created a stir back then, and we’re excited that we can continue our fruitful relationship with Jiawen Qin and her Xingang farm in China’s Yunnan province. It’s an exciting relationship that brings together all of our favourite things: direct trade, profitable coffee, and innovative flavours. 19grams is privileged to be the only roaster outside China selling coffee from the Xingang farm.
98% of all coffee grown in China is grown in the Yunnan province, a lush and mountainous area in the south of China, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. It is an enormously fertile part of the country, with at least 50% of plant species found in China growing in the province. Yunnan has long used this diversity to its advantage: it was a key stop on the Silk Road as early as the 2nd century BC, and was probably the first place in the world that people brewed tea.
While it enjoys this long and storied past in the history of tea, coffee is very new to Yunnan, and indeed to China in general. Coffee first came to Yunnan with French missionaries in 1892, who planted their seedlings in Binchuan, a county in the west of Yunnan. Some of these trees are still standing in the valley where they were planted today. It took until the 1950s, however, before any serious quantities of coffee were planted, with around 4000 hectares being planted, primarily for export to the Soviet Union.
Coffee processing is an even newer practice in Yunnan, with the first facilities being funded by a UN project in the 1990s. While Yunnan doesn’t enjoy the coffee growing and processing heritage that some African or South American countries do, this means producers are approaching coffee with fresh eyes, and it means that China is producing some of the most innovative, forward-thinking coffees around.
Jiawen Qin is a great example of this progressive approach to coffee. Her farm, Xingang, lies on the slopes of the Dahei mountain, near the city of Pu’er. It lies between the tropical and subtropical regions, which creates a varied climate ideal for growing specialty coffee. The average yearly temperature is 20.1 degrees celsius, but that hides the wide swings in temperature from summer to winter, and from day to night, which slows the development of the coffee cherries, increasing the complexity of the final cup.
The 28 hectare farm produces over 300 tonnes of coffee annually. Careful picking of coffee means only the ripest cherries make it into the 6 square kilometres of drying beds, where the real magic happens. Jiawen has experimented with all sorts of natural fermentation and drying methods, including double fermentation or her own black tea fermentation, which incorporates some of the 100 tonnes of tea also processed on the farm each year into the fermentation stage.
Xingang is also a socially progressive farm, with a 100% woman workforce. Everything from the planting, tending, harvesting, drying and processing is carried out by women. Jiawen herself is an inspiring figure, promoting her coffee overseas, helping us to be able to roast and taste this remarkable coffee here in Europe. 19grams is the only place in Europe where you can get your hands on these special beans from Jiawen and her crew.