Across China: Coffee shops breathe new life into old districts

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-07 09:54:32|Editor: Yurou
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by Simon Eric Haywood

GUANGZHOU, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is renowned for both its cuisine and centuries old morning tea culture, but like many cities across China, now also has a rapidly growing independent coffee shop scene.

Season Pan, the founder of Sweetness Coffee, a cafe located in the historic heart of Guangzhou, says coffee shops opening in the old parts of town are a vivid "fusion of new trends with traditional culture."

Whereas the big cafe chains can afford prime space in malls, youthful owners of independent coffee shops looking to gain a foothold need to go elsewhere sometimes, Pan says.

"I didn't have a lot of money when I started the business. I tried to minimise the cost of renting a space and put more money into equipment and beans," he said, sitting in his 10 square meters coffee shop.

Thanks to this search for practical yet affordable space, independent coffee shops have begun to breathe new life into the forgotten buildings and back alleyways of the city.

"In the older districts, the population is aging and there has typically been a lack of energy. When a coffee shop opens, however, it brings in young people, vitality and new business opportunities to these older areas," said Harry Au who once worked as barista.

Moving coffee shops out of malls and into traditional residential areas has "made it easier for consumers make coffee part of their daily lives" according to Kim, founder of High Five roastery.

Kim is another young man, who like Pan has chosen a building in the older part of town to renovate and bring his own vision to life. Such coffee shops are then going on to become hubs for young business people to network in a relaxed environment.

Liz Huang, founder of coffee shop Button, said: "Coffee shops can make a whole neighbourhood more human: providing a space for people to get together, talk and share ideas."

This story of change and revitalisation is true of the neighbourhood around coffee shop APF.

The brainchild of designer Peter Fong, APF is set in the renovated ground floor of an old residential building in Guangzhou's Tianhe district. The cafe was opened in 2016, and its imported beans and ultra-minimalist all-white aesthetic has blazed a trail for other coffee shops in the city.

The country's rising enthusiasm for coffee has coincided with its booming coffee growing industry. The coffee production base Pu'er in the southern Yunnan Province boasts an annual coffee trade volume of 100,000 tons.

Pan shared his optimistic outlook on the symbiotic relationship between independent coffee shops and domestic coffee growers.

"In 2019 we look forward to more homegrown Yunnan coffee. The cultivation and treatment of coffee in Yunnan has received more and more attention and in 2018 the domestic coffee market took a qualitative leap forward," he said.