Fubei Coffee Shop

In an effort to partner closely with those throughout the coffee chain (from farm to cup) we also like to highlight some of the cafes that are really doing some important initiatives in their local communities.  One of our favorites is a little shop called the Fubei Coffee Shop (福杯咖啡).  They are located in Haikou, Hainan.

They have an initiative that focuses on teaching job skills to handicapped persons in the community.  They have three deaf employees and one physically handicapped man on staff.  We have enjoyed working with them on barista skills and helping them understand coffee at origin.

Hani Coffee is the brand sold out of the café and also a huge help in the job skills training.  One young man who attends as many of the skills development workshops as he can placed in the top three in the province in an entrepreneurial competition showing how coffee can be used to create jobs and enhance the economic standing of those in the handicapped community.

It is a true joy being able to work with such incredible people.  If you are ever in Haikou, Hainan make sure you stop by the Fubei Coffee Shop to say hello!

The Fourth Wave

The following text was taken from an article posted at the Hani Coffee WeChat Official account.  The post is in both English and Chinese.  For the sake of simplicity I am attaching it here with some of our own pictures added.  We help run the Hani Coffee Hainan branch office and these pictures are taken with the same intentions of the article in play.  You can view the original article Here.

Maintaining & Promoting Relationships in the Coffee Industry – by Tim Heinze

“Third Wave Coffee” is a term often thrown around to articulate the current state of Specialty Coffee in regards to its development and growth. It is understood that this term relates to the industry’s growing focus on origin, appreciating the nuances and educating customers about coffee regions of the world. Throughout this wave, the words “direct trade,” “direct partnership,” “direct relationship” became more and more prolific. As a result, the pursuit of and importance placed within this area began to grow.

The fairytale image was created of a coffee roaster packing a bag, flying to origin, cupping coffees, throwing a sack of green beans on his back, handing the farmer cash (including a great premium for the high quality), and then returning home to roast and introduce their clientele to this new, “direct trade” coffee. While the image of this is sensationalized, the reality is for the vast majority of coffee companies across the globe (and farmers for that matter!) this situation is unachievable. But, the industry as a whole has created the expectation whereby unless one is fully embracing and pursuing this fictitious dream, then it’s not truly worthy or valuable. The reality is most farmers are not even capable of exporting on their own and most buyers aren’t able to facilitate and navigate the complex systems of importing on their own. There are vital members of the supply chain that are crucial to its overall success and this cannot be forgotten. But is there another way?

I believe the coffee industry is making a turn into the fourth wave of coffee that is enwrapped in a greater understanding of the entire coffee supply chain and how one ethically, responsibly, and sustainably participates in direct trade. As the coffee industry continues to walk in this direction, we would like to offer some advice and guidance to companies as they establish and seek to work within this model alongside coffee farmers all over the world.

In 2012, our company began working with Saxon Wright of Pablo & Rusty’s Coffee Roasters in Sydney, Australia. Specialty Coffee from Yunnan, though in its infancy, was on the rise, and P&R saw immense potential. After flying over, visiting the farms, and sitting down to talk with Agricultural Bureau Officials within the region, P&R made a commitment to see the expansion and growth of Yunnan Coffee in the Australian Specialty Coffee market. Because of our companies’ involvement with on-the-ground quality control, we talked through their requirements and specifications. From the very beginning Saxon Wright, CEO of P&R, made it clear that he was committed long-term. He offered many suggestions to improve dry milling, provide greater attention to maintenance of coffee trees, and shared a variety of other ideas. But he was also very clear from the start that if those recommendations were followed, and for some reason the coffee was negatively impacted, he would still commit to buy the coffee. He wouldn’t bounce to the next “new thing.”

Wright was committed to relationships and long-term partnership to the extent that he proposed a long-term buying plan. Based on the cost of production plus a quality incentive, he set 3-year pricing contracts with farmers to provide stability, household budgeting, and a more long-term sustainable situation at the farm level.

This type of sustainable, direct trade is best facilitated when buyers and farmers are committed to long-term working together. This leads to the next important step:

Two-Way, Transparent Communication

After making some adjustments to our dry milling, we packed the first container and sent it on its way to P&R in Australia. After a few months, we received communication back from the roaster that some of the coffee had a diesel-type smell. We thought, “well, there’s the end of that relationship!” But because of their long-term commitment paired with the open communication, we were able to determine this was due to the low-quality burlap bags that are produced in between country and immediately made the transition to GrainPro inner bags. Our company then became the first company to begin exporting coffee from China in 60KG GrainPro bags. This was an exciting innovation to be a part of, and we’ve never had this problem again! (P&R also booked a full container that following season!).

But here’s the key: because of P&R’s open dialogue and exchange of information, not only are we better serving their needs, but our customers all over the world now benefit from this experience and education.

Over the last few years, we have continued this two-way dialogue where we share with P&R all about the farm, and they share with us their roasting notes, roast profiles, and other information that has equipped us even better to introduce this coffee to 6 different countries (and counting!).

Pursue Innovation with Humility

The fourth wave coffee movement will not only be immersed in sustainable direct trade, it will also be peppered with innovation and research. As farmers and buyers are communicating back and forth, inevitably obstacles and challenges arise that will require both parties to work together to find a mutually beneficial solution.

Roasters, Importers, and Brokers must position themselves in humility and approach the situation as co-laborers working together rather than a dictator making demands. The greatest innovations within coffee production in the next 10 years will come about when the entire supply chain comes together to dialogue and discuss how to improve.

The reduction of waste, application of new technologies, and expansion within the genetic pool of coffee will just be a few of the areas we will see great leaps and bounds going forward and for them to be truly effective, humility must reign supreme.

What does this mean for you?

Instead of holding to the fairytale image discussed above, roasters, café owners, and people within the coffee industry can begin to be a part of the fourth wave of coffee beginning with asking questions. Whoever you’re buying coffee from, ask them about their sourcing model, how they work with farmers, how long have they been working with their current farms, and what are their long-term goals with the farmers. It’s difficult for many to travel to origin and even develop relationships with them, but we all can do our part to better understand the supply chain and the role each participant within it plays. The Fourth Wave of Coffee depends on it.

Sustainable Direct Trade: The Fourth Wave of Coffee

Specialty Coffee has come such a long way from the early days of understanding coffee and the entire supply chain. Ample stories and information have been published regarding the plight and struggles of the coffee farmer. The Third Wave of Coffee has done so much to take the focus back to the place where your daily cup all begins, and we want to see this continue to expand and grow.

As this next wave of coffee begins, we all must remember the importance of investing and committing to long-term relationships at the farm, being active contributors to two-way dialogue, and walking forward in humility toward greater and better coffee. The Fourth Wave is swelling. Surfs up!

Coffee Consumption Growth in China

According to the United States Department of Agriculture coffee consumption in China is growing faster than any other major market the agency tracks.  More Chinese are traveling abroad and experiencing coffee wherever they go.  This is enabling coffee to be an outlier in China’s economy where the demand for most other commodities is declining.

An average mainland Chinese person drinks about three cups of coffee per year.  An average person in the US drinks 363 cups.  Seeing this contrast shows just how much room for growth the Chinese coffee market has – especially considering it has the world’s largest population.

In May of last year, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told CNBC, “I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we have more stores in China than we do in the US”.  The coffee giant plans on reaching 10,000 outlets in China within a decade.  They will be opening up a premium roaster in Shanghai.  This looks impressive!

As the domestic market for coffee in China develops so will the amount of research and effort put into establishing premiere homegrown coffee.  We are grateful that we get to take a front-row seat and watch these farmers pour their lives into the bean that is slowly creeping into the lives of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.  They have been missing out on the enjoyment of coffee for far too long!

The Robusta Blend

While a 100% Arabica pour over leads to the most flavorful cup there are still some very compelling reasons to pull espresso shots with a nice Arabica/Robusta blend.  Here are the reasons:

1) Robusta beans produce more crèma than Arabica.  This is the barista’s dream as it adds to the presentation and artisan expressions in a nice latte.

2) 100% Arabica leads to a more floral taste in a cup but a nice amount of Robusta in the cup can really provide that bold coffee flavor the body craves in the early morning

3) When grinding, a Robusta bean has a harder shell.  If the Robusta grinds are then blended with the Arabica the heated water will work its way through the grinds extracting more from the Arabica.  That will allow the Arabica notes to stand out more than the Robusta but the added benefits of Robusta will still make its way to the cup

4) The amount of caffeine in a Robusta bean can be twice the amount than that in an Arabica bean.  That can provide the pick-me up that is really needed at any time during the day.

Don’t discount the humble Robusta bean too easily.  We are at the cutting edge of realizing just how much this bean has to offer!

Fine Robusta

Robusta coffee is widely considered inferior to Arabica coffee.  A lot of this is based on the historical comparisons.  Unfortunately, comparing the two coffee species is like comparing the two fruit species of apples and oranges.  The way that each coffee is processed and roasted should be considerably different.

As the global market for coffee began developing in the 19th century Arabica quickly became the frontrunner in the specialty market.  This was partially due to geopolitical conditions but also partially due to market considerations.  As research for coffee quality improvement was first administered amongst Arabica the findings were  also applied to the processing of Robusta coffees.  The characteristics of the bean development are significantly different.  To apply the same standards to both species led to the development of the flavor profile of Arabica while stunting the possibilities of Robusta.  Much of Robusta’s poor market reputation can be corrected through proper cultivation and processing.

One of the most significant differences between Robusta and Arabica species is in regard to the way they pollinate. Arabica is self-pollinating whereas Robusta is cross-pollinating.  That means the Robusta bean’s flavor profile can change based on the immediate environment.  There are few growers around the world that have been willing to defy market demands and full throttle their foray into the fine Robusta market.  Some of those who have been willing to pioneer the trail are beginning to change the global perspective of Robusta.  They are also kickstarting research as it is widely known that coffee is one of the greatest crops to promote community development and improve the living conditions for large population segments.

To learn more about fine Robusta standards and procedures please check out the Fine Robusta website where you will find some great information and resources!

Making Coffee Cups Out of Coffee Waste

Back in June we introduced you to Huskee Cup.  This is an incredible project that was born out of a collaborative effort to reduce waste by using it.  Huskee Cup uses the husk of the coffee bean to produce a cup that is beneficial for the farm, consumer, and cafe.

To learn more about Huskee Cup and its path from idea to game-changing product please read this article by the Specialty Coffee Association.  Not too many ideas in the kick-starter phase garner the attention Huskee Cup has.  Make sure to grab yourself a Huskee Cup and support the industry changing cup that reduces waste and enhances the enjoyment of the world’s favorite bean.


Climate Change in the Coffee Belt

Even the most nominal of consumers are familiar with some of the most famous coffee producing nations in the world: Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia.  The reason the coffee from these countries are so well-known is due to the growing conditions where they are situated.  Centered on the equator, the climate and geographic conditions make these locations ideal for coffee trees.

Extending to the north and south of the equator, bound by the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, this region has been aptly nicknamed the Coffee Belt. The intricately designed combination of heat, humidity, rainfall, elevation, and soil quality are found in the right combination in this region which circles the globe.

In recent years, climate change has been affecting the coffee in the central region and expanding the borders of the Bean Belt to both the north and the south.  Intense heat has been shrinking the arable land in these zones and providing a better habitat for plant-killing diseases (i.e. coffee rust).  While this is horrible for the aforementioned coffee producers, it is expanding the optimal conditions for growing coffee to regions that were traditionally too far north/south.  Yunnan, China is one of the benefactors of this phenomenon.  At the same time climate conditions are pushing change so are the habits of worldwide consumers.  The desire to receive coffee from micro-lots and unique places is thrusting China’s coffee into the world market.

Aside from merely expanding the coffee growing borders there might be another answer to thwart the coffeepocalypse – Robusta!  Traditionally, only Arabica was sought out by consumers on the specialty market but Vietnam, India, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico have produced some incredible Robusta lots over the past decade.  This is driving the global economy to direct resources toward researching, processing, and training Robusta farmers.  It is a more disease-and-weather-resistant variety so it is less affected by climate change.  It can be grown at lower elevations and has a higher plant yield.

Aside from merely expanding the coffee growing borders there might be another answer to thwart the coffeepocalypse – Robusta!  Traditionally, only Arabica was sought out by consumers on the specialty market but Vietnam, India, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico have produced some incredible Robusta lots over the past decade.  This is driving the global economy to direct resources toward researching, processing, and training Robusta farmers.  It is a more disease-and-weather-resistant variety so it is less affected by climate change.  It can be grown at lower elevations and has a higher plant yield.

While Arabica has the better reputation among consumers worldwide, the advantages for farming Robusta are going to be bringing more of the bean into local cafes.  It is a great time to begin learning some of the changes that can bring to your cup.

Photo cred:  Above photos without tags are from UTZ Certified


The following information was adapted from the FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  Most of the content and all of the graphics can be found on their website

During the first few years a coffee tree makes many branches.  In this growing phase it uses the majority of the nourishment it pulls in to make wood. When it is ready for first harvest that nourishment begins to direct a small amount towards yielding berries but most nutrients are used to continue to fuel the growing of branches.  If the branches continue to outpace the growing of berries the tree will not develop in a way to maximize yield.  Also, the Robusta trees in Hainan can grow up to 12 meters tall.  Since very few farmers are larger than 1.75 meters tall you can imagine how hard it would be for 5’8” farmer to harvest from a 40’ high tree.  Pruning is not easy but it is necessary.

Robusta trees have several main stems that grow from the trunk.  In order to prune the tree to maximize growth you need to spread the main stems so that several may grow.  The most common way to do this is to bend the first stem down and tie it to a stake.  That will enable a couple more shoots to grow out of the trunk.

Since the wood of a branch has berries for only one harvest year you will want to cut off the bent stem after it sprouts its first year of cherries.  A new stem will grow in its place.  For the stems that will subsequently grow you will want to cut down the branches after the next two years of harvest.  The fruit will only grow on the tips of the branches so by cutting these back you are directing more nutrients to the cherries and less to the wood.  After those first two phases of pruning you will allow the stems to grow for the next three to five years. It is recommended that you only cut one stem per year (for example, if you have three stems you cut one at year three, the next, at year four, and the following at year 5).  You will continue this cycle until the tree reaches about 18 years old.  At that age the production begins to diminish and you will eventually need to replace.

The reason the cherries only grow on the tip of the branches is because each part of the branch can only bear fruit one harvest year.  The next year, that part of the branch bears no fruit.  The berries grow on the new wood of the branch which has grown during the year.  A branch will yield fruit for several years but it is always a different part of the branch that bears fruit.

Since the tree’s natural proclivity is to produce wood it will sometimes produce a branch that grows upward out of a main stem.  This is called a sucker.  You will want to cut away the suckers because they suck away nutrients but never bear fruit.

If a tree is not yielding many berries on a particular main stem you will want to cut it back.  If severe loss of yield is happening you will want to leave only one main stem on the tree and cut off all the others.  If the tree is healthy new stems will grow in place of the ones you cut off.  As soon as those begin to grow you can then off the remaining old stem and that one will regrow as well.

How Hainanese Coffee Got its Name

When Singapore became a British colony in the early 1800s many of the first immigrants were wealthy Chinese.  They were mainly skilled craftsman or experienced merchants.  As they established homesteads on the island city-state they were recruiting from their pre-established homeland networks while developing industries and staffing them.  In 1858, the British setup a treaty port in Hainan after the Opium wars.  With the Hainanese having a relationship with the British who also established the colony in Singapore they were granted positions and passage that gave them means to also immigrate to Singapore.

Being latecomers to the new city-state the Hainanese were relegated to jobs in the service industry.  While the work was labor intensive and the pay was minimal, serving in this industry allowed the Hainanese to work alongside western chefs and learn a lot about British food culture…including coffee!

With the coffee being imported as seafaring cargo at a time before grain-pro bags, the coffee lost a lot of its natural flavors and gained some unnatural ones on the voyage.

In order to mitigate the taints and add something desirable for many of the coffee drinking westerners the coffee shops began roasting their coffee with butter and sugar.  Since those who were doing the roasting were mainly Hainanese migrant workers the coffee quickly became known as Hainanese coffee.  It is a very dark oily coffee.

The language of the Hainanese is not Mandarin or Cantonese.  It is a conglomerate of Malay/Hokkien/Fujian and that conglomerate led to what is today called Kopi TiamKopi is Malay for ‘coffee’ and Tiam is Hokkien for ‘shop’.

Kopitiams became such a socially enjoyed part of the culture that you can find these shops all over Singapore, Malaysia, and Hainan!