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Producer Focus - Gui Ben (China)

Monday 22nd January 2024

Producer Focus -  Gui Ben (China)

by Tom

At Dark Woods we are fortunate to work with some exceptional coffee producers and many of these become lasting relationships that we return to year on year. In the first of what we hope to be a monthly series we would like to share with you some of the stories behind the farmers and importers that make what we do possible. Focusing on a different Producer Series coffee each month I will explore the relationship history and share my thoughts on how best to brew and enjoy these ever-changing and unique single estate coffees.
Kicking us off we have a superbly balanced and incredibly agreeable honey-processed coffee from the Gui Ben region of Yunnan, China. This part of the world is still far better known for it’s high-grade teas but the good altitude, climate and high levels of biodiversity make it perfect for a rapidly evolving and increasingly well-regarded coffee producer. This is our 7th year buying Chinese coffee through our friends Christian and Shirani at IndoChina and it gets better every season.

Although Washed Chinese coffee has been available on the wider coffee market for a decade or more these are typically cheaper filler coffees for commercial blending, standing in for other neutral and low acidity origins such as Brazil. However, recent focus on other more complex processing allied to better green coffee preparation and sorting has resulted in some of our best received and most delicious natural and honey processed coffees of recent years.

This coffee originates from Shigaoqin and Gui Ben, a remote part of Yunnan just East of Pu’er City and close to the border with Laos. Production is spearheaded by Mr Tian Cai, the farm operations manager for our origin partners Yunnan Coffee Traders, with family member Mr Tang managing the farm on a day-to-day basis. Together they harvest and process their own coffees as well as cherries purchased from local coffee growing families. Their aim is not only to showcase the enormous potential of Chinese Speciality coffee but also to use their profile to create sustainable livelihoods for the local community. 

As a Honey Processed coffee (fruit removed and then dried in the sticky seed parchment) it is less fruit-forward than the Natural (dried in the cherry) processed lots that we also buy. This results in a super-approachable and crowd-pleasing coffee with moderate acidity and a delicious creamy body. As an espresso I really enjoyed the silky texture and ease with which I was able to dial it in as well as the pleasant top notes of soft fruit. Added to milk the fruit notes subsided leaving the supporting flavours of fudge, chocolate and nougat to marry harmoniously with the dairy sweetness. Also performing well as a longer brew (I used V60) it’s fair to say that this is one of those coffees that seems to suit all brewing methods as well as most palates. If you’ve never tried Chinese coffee before or you are wary of more fermented and funky brews then this is a great place to start.

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