Reading Time: 3 minutes

China is a huge country of huge traditions. One of its constituent parts is tea-drinking and it dates back thousands of years. But coffee? That’s new. And not just your mainstream instant brew, but specialty coffee, crafted with care and passion. Two young coffee freaks from Warsaw, Poland, discovered the market potential and are planning to tap into it.

KawePale is a craft coffee roastery based in Warsaw, run by Piotr Wilczewski and Piotr Mietelski. After 5 years of developing their product and gaining brand awareness on the local market, they decided to explore new lands.

Piotr and Piotr (isn’t it cool when business partners have the same names?) travelled to Shanghai to exhibit at one of the biggest food trade fairs in Asia – SIAL China. It took brewing litres of coffee and meeting a crowd of people at the stand during the two-day event to gather information not necessarily available with typical online market research. Visiting local coffee houses and networking with their staff and owners also turned out as extremely fruitful.

Many of the Chinese entrepreneurs who visited KawePale’s stand at SIAL were surprised by the existence of “specialty” coffee. Piotr and Piotr quickly realised that they won’t be just exporting coffee, but also knowledge and product awareness. The local traders were focusing on the raw material, asking many questions about the beans and their origin, but not the production process and know-how.

“It takes years of practice to master the art of roasting coffee. There are so many factors that affect the final product, even before actually brewing it. Some of the traders we met wanted to start importing immediately because they need so much coffee to meet the demand.We managed to explain that they can’t just buy expensive machinery and start roasting themselves – it’s too complicated. The demand is growing so fast that there’s no time to teach the locals how to produce the best quality coffee. They need the coffee now” – said Piotr Wilczewski, founder and CEO of KawePale.

Indeed, the Chinese coffee market is expanding rapidly and industry data confirms it. MarketingToChina Agency quoted analysis conducted by Chinabgao – coffee consumption expects 20% year-on-year growth, which, compared to the global rate is 2% above it. In such a huge country it means the market cap will reach trillions of yuan in less than a decade. According to Statista.com, revenue in the Roast Coffee segment amounts to 746.3 Mio US $ in 2019.

“It’s a common fact that Chinese cuisine is much different than European. Therefore, their taste buds react differently to certain types of coffee. Sharing experiences with local baristas and roasters helped us understand the differences. Coffee-drinkers in China don’t really like light roast, Scandinavian-style coffees that are currently very popular across Europe. They prefer darker tastes and focus on its bitterness and sweetness, rather than sourness. It’s fascinating how many possibilities these differences create. Adapting to the Chinese market will for sure enrich our offer and help us discover new tastes and learn, learn, learn.” commented vice-president and barista at KawePale, Piotr Mietelski.

However, there’s much more to the product than the taste. Drinking coffee is part of the European lifestyle that attracts a rapidly growing stratum of upper-middle-class Chinese. They want to explore the world and learn from other cultures. Fashion, travelling, music, diet – it all adds up to the modern Chinese lifestyle. And coffee-drinking is definitely joining the mix.

Project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund in the framework of the operational programme Smart Growth.