We get some interesting emails about Chinese Yunan Arabica coffee. I have cupped various types of commercial grade Yunan coffees. You can order this coffee in whatever style you want : Central American wet-processed style , Brazilian semi washed or dry-processed style, Sumatran semi wet hull style. It is unique. The fact is, until recently I have not found much of any flavor in these commercial coffees. It is suited toward the mass "industrial coffee market" meaning the R & G (roasted and ground) coffee market and insitutional roasting. I know that every new origin piques the interest, but that doesn't always make it good. Recently I received a sample of Yunan coffee that was markedly better, a real specialty-level coffee. It was from the ManLao River Plantation, that ranges from 3500-4500 feet with the coffee coming from smallholder farms as well as a large estate. The cup was clean, bright and had good sweetness, and was well processed. It was not a fresh new crop sample so it scored 84, but it could be an 85-86 point in the future. Yunan can produce good coffee, and somethimes it's simply a matter of what you are exposed to that colors those perceptions about specific coffee origins.
We're excited to offer coffee from China for the first time. I'd say it's because none of the samples we've cupped lately have been "up to snuff", however, we really don't receive many samples from China to speak of. So when a sample of this particular coffee hit the cupping table, we were so pleased that the quality was quite nice and that we could offer this coffee from a rather interesting part of the world to our customers. It comes to us from a farm in ManZhongTian, a little town in the Yunnan Province, situated along the ManLau River. The river supplies natural spring water for processing coffee on the farm (practicing conservation, and only used for floatation and washing), which is filtered before being recycled back to the source. The farm is fairly massive overall, but 100 hectares are devoted to Organic coffee production and at an altitude of roughly 1300 masl (meters above sea level). The plantation sprung up out of a project to eliminate extreme poverty in remote areas of Yunan, by helping villagers cultivate crops on land donated by the Chinese government. They've managed to parlay profits into building a central washing station and continue to work toward developing methods of producing high quality coffee.
To understand this flavor profile, it's best to think of Indonesian coffees, and perhaps to some Indian coffees, and not other wet-process types like Central America coffees. The dry grounds have a nutty sweetness that is like boiled peanuts with cinnamon. Dark roasts develop more spiced aromatics and with a bready smell that's like cinnamon/raisin bagel. Adding hot water brings up a sweet scent of spice cake in the coffee crust. There is still a bread-like smell that verges on pretzel - not all the way savory, but sweet like fresh dough. There are similar nut characteristics that remain central in both aromatics and flavor. The cup has a basic, but definite sweetness to it, that reminds me of refined sugar. There's a tinge of green herbs as well as a note of toasted sesame. This coffee's body is fairly medium and finishes on the rindy side of things, with a slightly bittering lemon peel flavor. While maybe not the "cleanest" coffee we have, it's an interesting and sweet cup, and definitely worth a taste if you're looking to try something from a part of the coffee world less traveled. We cupped both City and Full City roasts, and the coffee worked well along the spectrum.