For Immediate Release:
It is estimated that 1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world on an average day. Add to that the growing economy of China, a traditional tea market with an expanding global appetite for coffee, and the world is about to become highly caffeinated.
This is the hope of two coffee entrepreneurs from Southern California, who believe that the Chinese will take to drinking coffee just like their American and European counterparts. In early December they will find out, when their new venture, Ocean Grounds Organic Coffee and Tea, opens on the third floor of the UTOWN lifestyle mall in Beijing’s busy downtown Chaoyang District.
“I had done business in China for most of my life, but for the past few years living in San Diego, I started to really appreciate and understand specialty coffee and decided it was time to bring it to China. The market here is untapped and underdeveloped,” says cofounder and CEO Jim Lee, a San Diego native who is half Chinese. “For sure, Starbucks sees the same opportunity, but it is not our goal to be the biggest. … We want to prepare and present coffee as if it were a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Our goal is to celebrate the farm-to-cup experience and educate our customers so they can connect taste to the regionality of coffee. If they can appreciate an African coffee and compare it to a Central American, then we’ve succeeded.”
Lee and cofounder John Lewis knew that to compete and succeed in the hyper-competitive coffee business, they needed to support their high-end market position with their own passion for coffee. First, they hired Tracy Allen (CEO of Brewed Behavior, celebrated coffee-industry professional, supertaster, cupper, and instructor) to ensure that they could source and roast some of the most sought-after micro-lots of organic coffee from all over the world.
“Coffee chains from the U.S., New Zealand and the U.K. have begun to open minds about coffee in China,” says Allen. “I am proud to say this Brewed Behavior client has committed to being a clearly identifiable coffee importer, roaster, wholesaler, educator and ambassador. This progressive approach is hot in the Asian market. Taking care of the Earth and coffee farmers while satisfying the voracious appetites of the masses will be the challenge.”
After securing the best coffees for its operation, Ocean Grounds then purchased a brand-new 25-kilo Probat coffee roaster to anchor its retail business and supply custom blends and single-origin coffees to its growing wholesale business. A Discovery Bar anchors the main retail area where customers will interact with staff to discuss and enjoy handmade coffees.
“No drip coffee will be served at this location; every drink is made to order,” Jim Lee is quick to point out. “And we will consult with our wholesale clients to make sure standards are met at their locations.”
Ocean Grounds will also develop a retail offering, featuring products that are organic, natural and unprocessed—some of them made in California. They will also include tea from local Chinese company Tea Journeys, which shares the same handcrafted and hand-picked philosophy as its coffee counterparts.
Ocean Grounds’ soft opening will be December 6, in conjunction with the opening of UTOWN mall. Further plans to stir the market with the Ocean Grounds brand and product offerings includes its grand opening on December 12.
“Jim and I decided to not spend our marketing funds on traditional advertising,” says John Lewis, a 20-year marketing executive who has worked for culture brands like Nike and Burton Snowboards. “With social media like Weibo so pervasive in China, we know that if we spend our money on sourcing and roasting the best product, our customers will eventually seek us out and tell their friends. It also doesn’t hurt that the expat population in Beijing has been tortured with average coffee in this market for years. Word of mouth is still king.”
“My one wish for our Chinese customers is that they learn to enjoy coffee in the morning like the rest of the world,” adds Lewis. “But, the more time I spend in China and understand the culture, I realize that we just need to educate and let the coffee culture here evolve.”
Find out more at oceangroundscoffee.com.