Where to Buy “Ethical” Coffee in China?

Published on by Green Initiatives

From our last two articles we have seen that coffee is not only one of the most traded commodities in the world, but the growth in coffee consumption over the last two decades has been enormous.


In China, consumption has steadily grown and is only bound to grow further. We have seen that it is not easy to shun the coffee-habit, so we have to accept that coffee consumption is here to stay. What we can do, though, is consume consciously. Conscious consumption means we consume ethically sourced coffee from growers and sellers who have produced it with respect to the environment, while paying a fair wage to those who produce it.

[Read: “What is the real cost of our coffee?”]

To help you consume consciously we have created a list of organizations and businesses in China selling responsible, ethically-sourced coffee. Here’s that list.

[Note: If you know other organizations that are worth adding to this list please reach out to us so we can continue to enrich this list for everyone to benefit from.

But first, a brief history of coffee in China.

China’s Coffee History

Although in China coffee has often been considered as something exotic, to many people’s surprise it has existed in the country since 1892. Yunnan and Hainan which are located between latitude 15 degree to Tropic of Cancer turn out to be great places to grow coffee beans and give their coffee a unique flavor.

As of 2017, export volume of coffee from China has reached 105 million kilograms already, of which 58% comes from Yunnan. In fact, in 2012, Starbucks opened a Farmer Support Center in Yunnan that aims to provide resources and expertise to promote responsible coffee-growing practices and processing methods.

We found a beautifully made documentary about coffee growing in Yunnan, called “Behind a Coffee Bean”. You can watch this short-film (8-min) at this link.

Buying Responsible Coffee in China

So what do consumers in China buy to support these initiatives?

Apart from Gorilla’s coffee that you can buy from Wei Ya’s live-stream there are a couple of other great ethically / directly sourced coffee products and brands that we have found from our research, that we would like to recommend. Please note, we haven’t ourselves directly purchased or tried any of these products, but all the information comes from highly reliable sources.

1. Hani Coffee

Hani Coffee Co. has established its operation in Yunan since 2014. Within 5 years, the brand has expanded to not only retail channels but also food service, bringing Yunnan grown coffee beans to consumers in China as well as North America. The reason we are listing the brand here is of course not to celebrate its commercial success, but advocate the values that it has been following all these years: sustainable growing, responsible sourcing and mindful consuming. It is a cooperation between:
  1. The Yunnan Coffee Traders, a supplier that pulls Yunnan coffee farmers together with much emphasizes on sustainable growing and raising social conditions for the farmers and brings Yunnan coffee to the world.
  2. Mountain Coffee roastery, roasting and retail experience for over 10 years, with a vision to see people grow and learn.

To buy their coffee visit this link.

2. Torch Coffee

Just like Hani, Torch Coffee Company is also located in Pu’er, Yunan. What Marty Pollack, itsfounder, does different is that apart from producing great quality and locally sourced coffee, he also founded Torch Coffee Lab Yunnan that offers coffee education like SCI (Sustainable Coffee Institute), SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) and CQI (Coffee Quality Institute) qualification courses.

In Marty’s own words, “I hope through working with both retail side coffee professionals and Farmers, we can make a change in the way coffee is traded around the world.”

Go to Torch’s Taobao shop and have a look at the offers they have. If you happen to have the chance to travel to Pu’er, you will do well topay a day visit to Torch’s lovely Café at Gong Yuan 1 Hao, Building 108 Suite 138-139, Pu’er city.

To buy their coffee visit this link.

3. Arabica Roasters

Arabica Roasters Company is a Wholly Foreign Owned Venture based in Beijing with 2 subsidiaries, one each in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Since its founding, it has been sharing the value of sustainable farming, fair price to growers and transparent trade chain. The company pays close attention to environmental matters in each steps of coffee producing.For instance converting their factory from using gas to using electricity to roast the coffee.

The Jane Goodall Fair Trade Signature Blend (500g) you are seeing, 10% of the revenue from the sales is donated to The Jane Goodall Institute China to promote environmental protection in China.

To buy their coffee visit this link.

4. Manlao River Coffee

Manlao River Coffee originated from a farming project in Pu’er, Yunnan, that aimed to help local coffee farmers come out of poverty and make their farming sustainable. The project touched over 3,000 farmers and later developed into the current brand.

In 2018, the New York Times reported about Manlao River Coffee as “a full-bodied result that had pleasing bitter chocolate notes”.

I myself made a purchase of this product and had it delivered to my work. Out of all their product varieties, this one best suited my office ‘facility’. A cup of hot water, and I have a nice cup of coffee to enjoy!

To buy their coffee visit this link.

5. Shangrila Farms Coffee

The Arabica coffee beans sold by Shangrila Farms are grown by local coffee farmers in remote areas at 800 to 1200 meters above sea level, from Southern Yunnan. Farmers use eco-friendly growing practices while avoiding the use of pesticides. The highest quality beans from the harvest is then roasted and packaged for sale. The farm follows fair trade buying practices to support sustainable livelihoods - Shangrila Farms also supports development projects that benefit farmers in their coffee farm. This allows allows the farm to produce and sell delicious, natural coffee while supporting local communities.

To buy their coffee visit this link.

Ethical Sourced Imported Coffee Brands Sold in China

We understand that many consumers are looking for more choices when it comes to purchasing their coffee. We have done further research and come up with a couple of imported ethical coffee brands selling through online channels. Purchase these since the links are not being posted since they change frequently, and often times, the authenticity of the product may be doubtful.

However, if you come across trusted, verified sources for the below you could consider giving them a try.

Gorilla Coffee

The brand comes from Rwanda Farmers Coffee Company (RFCC),a large-scale coffee roasting and packaging facility,that claims to be working with thousands of Rwandan farmers to help them move up out of poverty through their own production. All green bean come from farmers’ cooperatives, and all their coops are fairtrade certified, will all green beans fully traceable back to the farmers.

Mount Hagen

German brand, coffee from Papua New Guinea

World’s first organic coffee produced in 1990. Today almost 100% of their organic fair trade Arabicas are imported from Papua New Guinea.Mount Hagen is 100% organic certified by EcoCert in accordance with the organic standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


It has taken us quite some time to gather these brands and products that we have been able to verify to be ethically produced, organic or direct sourced.

The important fact to note, though, is that for a country where coffee consumption is steeply and steadily on the rise, there were barely 4 locally-sourced, and a handful of imported, ethical coffee products/brands available to the consumer.

So the next time you buy your coffee you may definitely want to ask yourself, “where is this coffee coming from?”

Our friend Maarten Hol, who is running Hani Coffee Co. and has helped us immensely in this research says,

 “This simply sums up the state of the industry. The coffee industry is perhaps worse-off than the cocoa industry. More awareness is needed for these problems. And more communication on how to turn these challenges into opportunities, through education, and support for local communities and ethical brands.”

On our end, we have come to understand that coffee producers that adopt ethical and organic goals in China often find it “laborious to obtain, expensive to maintain”.

We hope the market can take a turn for the better, in the right direction, by having more local, ethical coffee in the future. And we, the consumers, have the real power to take the market to that direction by asking for, and making better product choices.

Buy consciously, consume responsibly. Appreciate every sip.