Coffee culture makes a good blend with business in Baoting

The enticing aroma of coffee increasingly fills the air in Baoting Li and Miao autonomous county, Hainan province.

Since the Cowshed Cafe — the first cafe in Baoting's Jiangu village —

opened at the beginning of 2021 as part of efforts to beautify the countryside, it has grown into a famous online check-in place, receiving local customers as well as visitors from across the country.

The cafe occupies a once-dilapidated house built in the 1970s and its renovation has retained its arc-shaped roof, a traditional feature of Li domestic architecture.

Located near the Jiangu village committee, the cafe got its name because the man who built it, the current owner's father, carried the stones for its walls by bullock cart from a nearby river, and in the 1990s, there was a cowshed on the hillside about 50 meters away.

Now run by a local farmer, it sells a cup of hand-ground coffee for between 10 to 15 yuan ($1.5-2.2), made using beans bought from elsewhere in Hainan, and brewed the local way. "No Coffee Mate or condensed milk is needed. Just adding a few drops of local coconut oil brings out the maximum flavor," said Chen Haiwen, the village's first resident Party secretary. "We used to grow coffee beans here before and now we're trying to grow them again. If we're successful, we'll use them in the Cowshed Cafe. By starting a cafe in the village, local residents can feel a real change and become more confident about developing Jiangu."

As one of the village's cultural centers, the cafe aims to attract returning migrant workers, as well as become a rural tourism spot where travelers will be able to enjoy a quiet, relaxing coffee as they savor the countryside views. Last November, six elderly Shanghai residents drove about an hour from nearby Lingshui Li autonomous county for the experience and they told the cafe operator that the trip was a chance to enjoy a coffee and the views.

To lift Baoting's economic and social development, a workshop cafe called "coffee time — a political and business dialogue to accelerate development" has been held every Wednesday afternoon at the county government office.

"The cozy and pleasant event has been held 39 times so far," said the Baoting county development and reform commission's Gao Zijian. "Many companies have told us of their needs and desires, and the government has offered suitable responses and solutions."

The Hainan Baoting Edible Mushroom High-tech Industrial Park project, for example, has benefited from the workshop.

The park planned to rent 23.5 hectares of land and invest an expected 190 million yuan in production sites, machinery and personnel.

But when discussions began, the park was unable to secure a deal with the owner of the land, so it turned to the local government for help. Once all sides were able to sit down, drink coffee and discuss the issue during the seventh workshop cafe, which was held on May 25 last year, construction was finally able to start on Oct 27 as a result of local government intervention.

So far, more than 450 county officials and 210 companies have attended cafe sessions and 200 projects have been discussed. Some 300 appeals have been raised by companies, 77 percent of which have been resolved by the local government.

"The workshop cafe has created a problem-solving mechanism. It makes a list of the problems and suggestions raised and tasks the relevant government departments with dealing with them within a specified time frame," a representative from the Hainan Federation of Industry and Commerce explained. "Using coffee creatively as a means of face-to-face communication between the local government and companies has created sincere interaction with entrepreneurs in a small but welcoming and relaxed setting."