KUNMING, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Jin Kehong took a deep breath and inhaled the aroma of the coffee beans, carefully brewed them on a stove, then took a sip, letting the flavor spread over his palate.
Jin's meticulous approach to coffee making was shared by many participants at a recent cupping event for specialty coffee in the city of Baoshan, southwest China's Yunnan Province.
The event was one of the main activities at the 8th China Coffee Brewers Cup, which was held earlier this month in Lujiangba Valley, Baoshan.
This year's championship attracted more than 1,000 participants from all over China, with 28 reaching the finals in Baoshan to compete for the top prize, said Zhong Qinghua, an executive committee member of the China Coffee League, an organizer of the championship.
Jin, a graduate from a British university, likes to call himself a "new coffee farmer" in Baoshan.
Three years ago, Jin travelled from his hometown of Dalian, a coastal city in northeast China, to Lujiangba to pursue a career in the coffee industry.
He then established his own brand "UooSHINE Coffee" with his partners and began posting vlogs about coffee on the online video-sharing platform Bilibili.
Lujiangba Valley is the largest coffee-growing area in Baoshan. With 2,517 hours of sunshine per year, little frost and a large temperature difference between day and night, the valley is an ideal place to cultivate specialty coffee.
"The climate here is suitable for coffee growing. And plus, there is a consensus among local players on pursuing specialty coffee," said Jin, referring to the highest grade of coffee.
In 2016, when the second edition of the championship was held, the coffee market in Baoshan and Yunnan as a whole hit a low point.
At that time, a kilogram of Yunnan coffee beans sold for less than a single cup of coffee in a city.
In the following years, coffee consumption in China began to grow rapidly. The enthusiasm for specialty coffee in first and second-tier cities offered hope for Baoshan's coffee industry.
"To ensure better quality, Baoshan coffee companies started to require a higher percentage of mature cherries when purchasing coffee cherries from farmers," said Fang Mingfeng, general manager of Baoshan Beaton Coffee Co., Ltd. However, many farmers were reluctant to stop the old habit of picking a mixture of mature and immature berries.
Due to the continuous efforts of coffee companies, however, the percentage of mature cherries increased year by year, bringing up the purchase price. With the increased income, farmers were more motivated to pick mature cherries.
"Coffee farmers used to treat coffee beans solely as a cash crop and had no interest in drinking coffee," said Fang.
To promote coffee culture among farmers, the local government and coffee companies jointly held coffee cultural festivals and organized training sessions.
"The farmers started to drink coffee and even compared the taste of different beans," Fang said, adding that it led to a steady improvement in the quality of Baoshan coffee.
"While many old coffee farmers had plenty of experience in growing coffee, they lacked the distribution channels and influence to promote their products," said Jin.
He formed a partnership with a local coffee farm, helping promote its coffee beans through online marketing and sales channels. He also started purchasing beans from the farm himself for processing and roasting high quality products.
"Cultivating specialty coffee will unlock the future of Yunnan coffee," said Jin.