Coffee to get a roasting in chilly Northeast

HARBIN — Di Guochen, a businessman in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, has an ambitious plan to turn the city into a trading center for raw coffee beans.

As the chairman of the province’s coffee industry and communication alliance, Di is brewing up an idea to grow coffee in South America, transport the beans to China for processing and then sell the finished product to neighboring countries.

After years of living in Brazil, Di has developed a deep understanding of the coffee industry and is optimistic about the prospect of cooperation with the country.

“South America is known for its top-quality coffee, but processed, roasted coffee can only be kept for a relatively short time,” Di said. “Japan, South Korea and Russia are big coffee consumers. If a roasting plant is built in Heilongjiang, it will rev up China’s coffee industry and better serve neighboring markets.”

Located in northeastern Asia, Harbin has a history as a city of combined Chinese and Western cultures. It has a well-developed coffee culture with hundreds of coffee shops in operation, as well as huge market potential.

Drinking coffee has become a habit for white-collar workers, college students and foreign residents of Harbin in recent years.

Di, who also runs coffee shops of his own, said that he chose to start the alliance because he spotted the huge market demand in Harbin, especially among younger consumers. “Professors, as well as students from the Harbin Institute of Technology and other colleges, often come to my coffee shop,” he said.

“Coffee shops can be a place for young people to discuss their ambitions and new ideas in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere.”

Zhang Xiaodan, a sales manager at a trading company in Harbin, initially developed a love for coffee because of her work.

“I used to take my foreign clients to coffee shops for business discussions as they are a good place to talk. Gradually, I found that drinking coffee helped me lose weight and improved my mood,” Zhang said, adding that she has even bought a coffee machine and has started to learn about coffee beans and coffee culture.

Coffee consumption is rising rapidly in China, turning the traditionally tea-drinking country into one of the world’s most promising markets for the bean.

The expanding market is expected to be worth about 1 trillion yuan ($145.7 billion) by 2025, according to an industry report.

Di sees both great potential and demand in China’s coffee market, especially in Heilongjiang, and plans to invite partners engaged in the coffee industry in Brazil to the province’s free trade zone to invest.

He believes that they have already reached a preliminary cooperation agreement. “Coupled with the tax incentives and other favorable conditions in the free trade zone, we are optimistic about the plan’s prospects,” he said.

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