Wellington business Mojo Coffee to open in Xi'an, China

Staff training in the new Mojo cafe in Xi’an, China.

Staff training in the new Mojo cafe in Xi’an, China.

A prominent Wellington businessman has partnered up with a New Zealand coffee business to set up in China.

Mojo Coffee, which was founded in Wellington in 2003, is set to open in the central Chinese city of Xi'an.

Director Steve Gianoutsos said the venture was not on his radar until he met businessman Chao (Charlie) Zheng.

Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is home for Zheng and is famous for the Terracotta Warrior sculptures.

The cafe, which will open in the next few months, would be located in a new part of the city, near a shopping complex, hotels, office blocks and metro lines.

The Xi'an coffee culture differed from that in Shanghai and Beijing and mainly centred on places to meet rather than the coffee, Gianoutsos said.

"We will be different, so there is a lot of work to do." 

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The Mojo China staff were being trained by New Zealand staff, so the coffee and service would be just like Wellington.

"We want those in China who had a bad coffee experience to taste Mojo. We want to open their eyes and for them to say ' ah this is nice. "'

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The first independent coffee roaster cafe opened in Wakefield St and has expanded to about 30 locations, between Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Japan.

Entering the Chinese market would be a slow process, but Gianoutsos was confident he could succeed.

Mojo opening in China was made possible by Zheng and his networking, Gianoutsos said.

"Without contacts in China it is almost impossible to get into a market."

A small team of people who organised the Mojo business in Wellington were hands-on, including his father, who roasts the beans.

The business had grown like a family, working with people who operated the cafes.

Unlike a franchise, the partner/manager model saw an operator co-owning the cafe,  Gianoutsos said.

It was this family ethos that attracted Zheng to the brand along with in-store bean roasting.

"That was the selling point for me," Zheng said.

Zheng, who lives in New Zealand, said he wanted to bring the Wellington coffee experience to his home city.

"There is already a mature market for coffee in China but bringing a family business that roasts fresh beans in the cafe is a different angle . "

Milk was a huge part of the coffee and "Kiwi experience" but sourcing New Zealand milk in China had proved challenging and expensive.

Some suppliers were charging $20 for two litres, Zheng said.

Up to 10 tonnes of fresh milk a week is reportedly being airfreighted to China by New Zealand companies, with pricing ranging between $8 and $12 a litre.

This compares to the cost of Chinese milk of between $3 and $5.50 a litre.

Mojo was  trying to source suppliers and was talking to Fonterra.

Zheng is working on a concept to develop a 'New Zealand centre' in Xi'an.

It would be separate from the the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise centre in Shanghai.

The concept was about constructing a building for New Zealand business to set up to sell services, tourism and products such as food and drink.

Other New Zealand coffee brands operating in China include Esquires and Fuel Espresso.

 - Stuff

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