Coffee Commune drives the dream of “Shangri-La”

“扎 台 型” Shangri-La

Coffee Commune (咖啡 公社) is one of the few cafes to support Yunnan coffee in Shanghai. Its CEO, Eric Baden, is a German who was CEO of a chemical company and has lived in Shanghai for almost 20 years.

Yunnan coffee beans are the main product on the shelf when you enter the cafe near Longyang Road subway station in Pudong New District.

A high ceiling with a large space provides consumers with a relaxing bright and pristine environment. The mural, showing a woman planting coffee beans, depicts coffee’s connection to Yunnan farmers.

For Baden, Coffee Commune is a “Shangri-La” from the bottom of my heart. It is not only a place for him to fulfill his coffee dream, but an intermediary platform between Yunnan farmers and the world coffee market.

Ma Xuefeng / SHINE

Coffee Commune allows Eric Baden to communicate with people of different age groups with different coffee preferences.

Connecting Yunnan coffee to the world

Ten years ago Baden learned stories from impoverished people in Yunnan. After much thought, he decided to devote himself to the coffee industry and help the local people to earn a decent living by planting coffee beans and expanding their markets.

He believes that “we must get to the root of the problem and help rural communities stay intact, so that people do not have to leave their places of birth and childhood and become part of the community.”

Baden systematically acquired his knowledge of coffee at a coffee school in Yunnan. Now he goes there regularly, at least once a month, to teach farmers how to grow, harvest and dry better coffee beans.

He feels connected and touched by these local populations. Seeing the living conditions in which these very sincere and hardworking people live broke her heart. But knowing that “they have so much joy in doing what they do and making progress” also won her heart. This is the reason why he strove to protect the “Shangri-La” from these farmers.

Based on Baden’s efforts, the word “common” implies that he “is trying to build a community”. Farmers know the Chinese better “gongshe“, which was widely used as” Renmin Gongshe (People’s Commune) “during the second half of the 20th century in China. It is the best way to bridge the gap between locals and expats, and young and less youth.

Coffee Commune drives the dream of

Eric Baden / Ti Gong

Coffee Commune is also like a bridge allowing farmers to reach national and global markets.

consumers to promote their high quality coffee beans to the world. Baden continues to try to find a space for Yunnan coffee in the world and focuses on the red earth of the region. He dreams that it can be called the “Red Earth coffee community”. He wants to create a chain to prove that Yunnan coffee could be a brand equivalent to that of other origins, such as Colombia and Ethiopia.

His hard work began to pay off in late 2019. A New Zealand roaster invited him to attend Golden Bean ANZ 2019, one of the world’s biggest coffee competitions, in Sydney. He won the silver medal in the milk-based category, which made him more confident about the huge potential of Yunnan coffee.

The impact of COVID-19 has been a major challenge in his quest to promote Yunnan coffee. previously he had many chances to be a coffee judge all over the world, so he would bring samples from Yunnan with him. During breaks, he would seek advice from other judges, then give feedback to farmers in Yunnan to improve the quality.

Although he cannot personally represent Yunnan coffee to the world since the pandemic, he insists on sending samples to different countries, so that more people will know about the high quality of Yunnan coffee beans.

Shanghai café atmosphere

Baden first visited Shanghai when he was assigned to the city by his former chemical company. He now finds life and cultivation easy and has made more connections, so he stays.

He has lived with his family in Kangqiao, a community 10 kilometers from his cafe, since arriving in Shanghai. In his spare time, he loves to walk his dog Daisy and enjoys spending time with his family in the garden, an activity that makes him feel like he’s back in his country.

Baden knows more about Puxi thanks to his habit of “skipping cafes” – taking the metro, choosing a type of coffee, like Espresso, Latte or Americano, and ordering it at random from different cafes, just walking slowly through the old streets. with sycamore trees and old villas.

Coffee Commune drives the dream of

Ma Xuefeng / SHINE

Yunnan coffee beans sold in Baden cafe near Longyang Road, Pudong New Area

In terms of coffee culture, he thinks Puxi and Pudong, separated by the Huangpu River, are like Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City. Manhattan-style “espresso culture” is fast-paced, as in Puxi, where consumers prefer short, quick coffees. Across the river, they’re more likely to “savor the smell of coffee” at a Brooklyn-style cafe.

“It was my take on this place,” Baden said. Coffee Commune is the cafe of her dreams – a large, slow-paced space. Rather, it is a “lab” where consumers can congregate and enjoy coffees from time to time, allowing Baden to communicate with people of different age groups with different coffee preferences.

As an expat living in Shanghai for two decades, he was deeply drawn to the city’s rapidly evolving and creative coffee culture, with local specialties. Cafes are like “Shangri-La” for coffee lovers to escape the busy city for a short rest.

Baden notices that big brands like Starbucks initially imported coffee into China. Many expats opened individual cafes later, but they paid more attention to expressing their own coffee culture to local consumers. Most coffees were roasted and prepared in an exotic but traditional way, such as espresso, flat or poured white coffees, in the first generation of coffee shops in Shanghai.

Coffee Commune drives the dream of

Ma Xuefeng / SHINE

With the rapid development of local coffee culture, cafe owners, dominated by young local baristas and Generation Z, have become more sophisticated and creative.

“They like to mix and match everything. They start by learning everything they can about coffee, so they know all the different styles. They just open a cafe in the place they personally prefer.” In terms of diversity in Shanghai, Baden finds it fascinating.

He also notes that in the digital age, most cafes are beyond the sale of cafes and are no longer a third space for social communication: “It is changing to become more of a space of self-expression than a space to spend my time and do my routine. “

Wanghong (Internet celebrities) rush to famous, crowded cafes, focusing on design rather than flavors and continually taking selfies to respond to social media. It’s a new way to express their personality, but Baden thinks “designs come and go, what’s left is a solid product.”

Although it is difficult for Baden to promote samples abroad due to the international logistics affected by the pandemic, there are now opportunities for Yunnan coffee in the domestic market, especially for specialty beans. More and more cafe owners and coffee lovers are choosing local and high quality coffee beans.

Baden noticed that the demand for coffee beans in China has shifted from quantity to quality. The market share of premium beans has increased a lot, especially Arabica which is becoming the major product of Yunnan coffee.

Baden thinks this is the best time to seize the opportunity to improve the quality and image of Yunnan coffee beans: “You have to collect your unique product and promote it.

With more mature coffee consumers in Shanghai, Baden predicts the city will play an increasingly important role in shaping the future of global coffee shops.

He no longer “feels like a foreigner here” because after living in the city for so long, Shanghai has gradually become his home.

About Glenda Wait

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