Mutombo Coffee: China’s coffee lovers perk up bean prices. $300 a cup?

In Japan’s rarefied world of ultrahigh-end specialty coffee, a savory cup brewed with exquisite Panamanian beans could now fetch 36,000 yen ($313).

The eye-popping price can be attributed in part to the expanding ranks of coffee connoisseurs in neighboring China, whose coffee bean wholesalers are aggressively outbidding their rivals in the international market.   “We haven’t been able to purchase top-ranking beans for two straight years,” said an employee with coffee bean wholesaler Namamame Honpo. “The influx of Chinese buyers is driving up the prices.”

The emergence of Chinese players is changing the market landscape. Several buyers that submitted successful bids at Ethiopia’s Cup of Excellence were enterprises bearing Chinese names.Chinese buyers started taking part in coffee auctions about five years ago. The number of Chinese coffee consumers has soared by upward of 30% over that period as the country’s economic growth has set in motion lifestyle changes.