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From beans to dreams: Village coffee booms rural tourism in Xi'an, Shaanxi

By Zhang Li and Qin Feng | | Updated: 2024-06-23 20:39
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A barista is serving coffee to consumers in Liyukou village of Xi'an city, Northwest China's Shaanxi province. [Photo provided to]

In Liyukou village of Xi'an city, Shaanxi province, Wang Huiting's dream of ensuring everyone in the village could enjoy coffee has not only come true but also has transformed the village into a bustling scenic spot.

Wang, a doctoral graduate from Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology, stumbled upon the idea during her research on urban planning and the happiness index.

She was trying to figure out the relevance between urban planning and the happiness index while visiting Liyukou village at the foot of Qingling Mountain.

"I found that people tend to be more relaxed and happy in rural areas instead of the metropolis. Coffee is attractive for young people and this would add lures to the place," said Wang, who later established her Two Tree coffee bar here in 2019.

The cafe, about 50 kilometers from Xi'an, used to be a disused factory.

Boasting unique designs like a courtyard wall made from discarded hollow bricks and acrylic materials, it features a large parachute-like shelter where visitors can savor coffee amidst the picturesque mountain scenery. It also houses a library and a movie screening room, attracting locals and tourists alike.

Since it was opened in October 2022, the coffee bar quickly went viral on social media.

"Sometimes I have to make more than 50 cups of coffee a day by myself," said Song Naihong, the barista, skillfully brewing a grape latte for a customer.

The 46-year-old woman now known as Emily is a local villager who was only engaged in corn planting before.

"When it comes to weekends and holidays, we are too busy to take a rest. But earning over 4,000 yuan a month is quite a decent amount for me," Song said with satisfaction.

There are ten more workers like Song who would farm during the busy season, and put down their hoes to make coffee in their spare time.

Coffee once was strange and remote to Wang Yani, who now serves in the kitchen and shared her excitement for the job.

"I would never try any coffee if the bar wasn't here. It is a great pleasure to walk here for work and meet tourists and share life with them," said the 53-year-old villager.

To cater to local tastes, the cafe offers dishes blending the characteristics of various locations, such as pizza with leek and egg toppings.

"People come here not only to buy coffee, but also to be immersed in the green ecology of Qinling and the pastoral environment," said Wang Huting.

In front of the cafe is a tourism highway, which connects the coffee bar with many artistic villages along the mountain range.

Art helps the villages to become more fashionable and livable, while retaining their authentic beauty.

However, not everyone was initially receptive to the concept of "village coffee".

Wang Lijun, Party chief of Liyukou village, had always believed that coffee had no market in rural areas.

"It turned out to be a big success. We saw the increasing village revenue and update in villagers' mind," he said.

In 2023, the number of tourists in the village exceeded 400,000, and the village income reached 526,000 yuan.

The tourism industry provided jobs for over 60 villagers.

Wang Huiting's success sparked a wave of entrepreneurial spirit in Liyukou Village, attracting over ten young entrepreneurs who diversified the local tourism industry with new ventures like tea restaurants , motorcycle exhibition center and pet parks.

In September 2023, Huyi district of Xi'an, where the coffee bar is located, established a youth rural entrepreneur alliance and set up five innovation and entrepreneurship incubation bases across the district.

This initiative aimed to guide a large number of young talents to return to their hometowns to work and start businesses, empowering the rural revitalization cause.

"Talents are the key to develop the rural areas. As long as they come to the village, I assure to be their backup and offer all-out support," promised Wang Lijun.

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