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Coffee Tree
22 Dec, 2021

Menglian: Home of China’s Best Coffee

Yunnan is most famous for Pu’er tea, but Yunnan coffee has also started going global.

In particular, the Menglian coffee bean. It’s been crowned the national champion of green coffee beans for four consecutive years and given the world a renewed understanding of the quality of Yunnan coffee.  

The wins, at the Yunnan Coffee Green Bean Contest between 2018 and 2021, have not only generate interest in the bean, but also the people who grow them and the place they originate from.

Baked Coffee Bean

Yunnan Menglian County (full name: Menglian Dai Lahu Wa Autonomous County), located in the southwest of Yunnan, belongs to Pu 'er City, the county inhabited by the Dai, Lahu, Wa - based 21 ethnic minorities.

These coffee growers are from the Wa people of Menglian County. The Wa is a direct-transition ethnic group, meaning that instead of a gradual modernisation, they leapfrogged from a primitive society into a modern one.

A lot of their heritage has been kept intact. The Wa who grow coffee live in the village of Mangmao.

They had produced tea and sugar cane for a living. Their farms were small and scattered. They didn’t have much to harvest, but they worked hard.

Local villager Ye Ping and her husband saw an opportunity to take the lead in growing coffee to help breathe new life into the village.  

It was as early as 1892 that coffee was first brought to Yunnan by a French missionary. But back then coffee wasn’t popular among Chinese people, so few farmers planted it.

Alongside the big coffee-producing countries such as Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia, Menglian lies in a region known as the golden belt for coffee farming, which is at around 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south.

In recent years, coffee has become increasingly popular in China’s cities, a source of encouragement for Ye Ping and her husband.

It’s been their vision to get villagers to grow coffee and increase their incomes. They began to realise this by giving seeds to everyone in the area for free, encouraging them to plant new roots for the future of their village.

Situated at 1,600 meters above sea level, Menglian is across the river from Myanmar, with a huge temperature difference between day and night and it’s ideal for growing coffee.  

But Ye Ping had to win over the confidence and support of villagers, to get them involved in her vision. No one here had ever heard of coffee, or seen it, let alone tasted it.  They didn’t believe it could make money.

The villagers were reluctant, but eventually were won over.

But there were challenges ahead. After three years of harvest, they were hit by a frost. Harvesting went on for another three years, but then sales were hit by a drop in global market prices.

Coffee Bean

Ye Ping had to re-think her vision and decided to tap into the specialty coffee market. She studied hard to improve planting, washing and processing techniques. She even took up a course in the city to learn about coffee processing techniques.

From this learning, she discovered the many flavours of coffee and passed on her new-found knowledge to villagers. The idea was to teach them how to recognise good coffee, to make the most of their harvests.

Finally, in the tenth year of growing coffee, growers went to Pu 'er city to take part in the Best of Yunnan Green Coffee Competition 2018. They won the championship.

The competition was organised by the Yunnan International Coffee Exchange Center.

Yunnan International Coffee Exchange Center is an enterprise supported by the government, enabling villagers to grow coffee and access markets.

The goal is to help Yunnan coffee farmers to win national and even global attention. Every year, the Exchange Center organizes the coffee bean competition on par with international professional standards, featuring renowned specialists all focused on helping Yunnan to go global with its coffee.

The prize-winning coffee by Menglian scored 84 points. Their coffee has gained a high popularity in the whole Chinese coffee circle and the global boutique coffee circle.

Coffee Tree

Nowadays the Menglian coffee attracts a high price and stable orders. The winter harvests of coffee can make up for the income gap for tea planters.

For the villagers, a small bean has transformed their lives, showing that persistence brings hope.

Notes: No Poverty Land 9 :Best Coffee in Yunnan has the detail report for this story. The link was below: