From the Field, News

Monday, February 27, 2023

Innovative New Wet Mill in Yunnan

Sucafina Yunnan recently completed a state-of-the-art wet mill in Yunnan. The wet mill is near Pu’er in the heart of the coffee-producing areas near Sucafina’s lab and offices. This mill has an innovative wastewater processing setup that has the potential to revolutionize water usage at wet mills.

“The mill is the largest and most innovative in Yunnan and is also the largest of the wet mills that Sucafina owns or operates globally. We are excited to see the mill open,” says Carl Sara, Sucafina Yunnan's Managing Director. “Sucafina is constantly striving for innovative opportunities to consolidate the learnings and knowledge we have gained throughout our global network and implement them locally, adding genuine value and environmental gains.”

Sucafina has undertaken the wet mill as part of a larger sourcing engagement in Yunnan actively working upstream with farmers as part of IMPACT, Sucafina’s responsible sourcing program, which was launched in 2022.

The mill's water purification system is the first of its kind in coffee processing. By working with a company in Kunming that treats industrial waste, Sucafina Yunnan designed a closed-loop system that completely cleans all wastewater. The system requires very little oversight and can clean the water from processing 120 tons of cherry daily. The mill doesn’t produce any wastewater run off and the cleaned water can be reused again and again. The biomass filtered from the water can then be burned to power the dryers. Additionally, all of the electricity at the mill is generated by hydroelectric power and 40-50% of the heat in the dryers is generated by solar power.

This new Pu'er wet mill has the capacity to process more than 15 tons of cherry per hour and facilitates the purchase of cherry from hundreds of local producers. It will embrace and, in most cases, exceed globally recognized environmental standards for wet mills, support practices to help increase the net income, efficiency, and livelihoods of Yunnan producers and develop targeted and regionally specific agronomy and processing techniques that can be scaled effectively in Yunnan. Demo plots on-farm provide the opportunity to demonstrate the latest agronomy techniques to producers.

The mill features a number of innovations, many of which have been made possible due to the technology and other resources available in Yunnan. High-quality wet milling equipment results in high yields, low defect rates, and – importantly – extremely low damage rates to coffee. Fully electronic recordings of all lot quality and weight data are collected, including immediate issuance of contracts upon reception and prompt payments. Combined, this provides surety to producers and is the first stage of traceability that continues throughout the production supply chain.

“The wet mill represents a significant opportunity for Sucafina to increase the quality and consistency of Yunnan coffees both domestically and globally. This adds value for everyone in the supply chain from farm to roaster,” Carl Sara concludes.