In the bustling realm of China’s coffee industry, a name echoes with admiration and respect – Jeremy Zhang, fondly known as “Captain” by those who have sailed with him through the evolving waves of the specialty coffee scene. His journey permeated with a rich aroma of diligence, innovation, and genuine love for coffee, harbors not only his own triumph but also the upliftment of a whole industry, nurturing it from its nascent stages to its present-day glory.
Jeremy’s first dalliance with coffee wasn’t grounded in the vast coffee fields of China, but in the trendy coffee shops of Melbourne in 2009. A time when specialty coffee was just beginning to warm the Australian hearts, Jeremy found himself enamored by the passionate baristas and the intricately brewed beverages. The zeal, the profound connection between baristas and their brews, planted a question in his mind: Could he, too, dive deep into the world of coffee?
As curiosity blossomed into participation, Jeremy Zhang ventured into the competitive arena, clinching his first barista championship in China in 2014. His triumph was not merely a personal accolade but marked the germination of one of the first specialty coffee roasteries in the country. M2M (Make to Measure), under Jeremy’s astute leadership, took shape not just as a business but as a pioneering force, roasting over 1000 tonnes of coffee annually and sculpting a space for specialty coffee in a predominantly tea-drinking nation.
Yet, the journey was far from smooth sailing. A decade ago, with 95% of coffee shops relying on imported beans and a pervasive skepticism around the profitability of the coffee business in China, Jeremy’s dream seemed almost illogical. His persistence, however, was unswayed.
“You have to enjoy and love what you are doing… so when you meet obstacles, you meet challenges, you still can do it with a passion,”
reflects Captain, embodying a philosophy that saw him through the skepticism and challenges that once clouded China’s coffee landscape.
Jeremy’s leadership extends beyond business acumen into areas requiring moral and ethical stances, notably the delicate issue of infused coffee. His belief that consumers deserve transparency and quality has led him to boldly address these aspects, posing critical questions about our relationship with coffee. He reflects,
“With all the technologies and processing methods we have, are we really enjoying the flavors from the coffee or just the cash brought from the beans?”
These poignant reflections underscore a need to reshape the coffee market, prioritizing authenticity and consumer awareness.
The Captain’s role as a mentor and knowledge sharer has been pivotal. By organizing international training sessions and collaborating with global coffee experts, Jeremy has not only enhanced the skills of his local team such as Jianing (2019 World Brewers Cup Champion) but has also catalyzed a symbiotic growth amongst coffee professionals worldwide. His philosophy – to glean knowledge wherever it may come from, even from critics – has fostered an environment where learning is perpetual and collaborative.
Away from the roastery and the alluring aroma of coffee, Jeremy Zhang is a devoted family man, ensuring to carve out moments from his bustling schedule to be with his loved ones. His journey, while steeped in professional milestones, is also a heartening story of balancing personal and professional life, showcasing that success truly brews well when it percolates through all spheres of life.
Jeremy “Captain” Zhang, through his undeterred spirit and boundless passion, has cultivated a coffee culture in China that will linger long in the aroma-filled alleys of its cafes and roasteries. His narrative, while enriched with accomplishments, is also a testament to the power of dreams, resilience, and ethical practice. As the future unfolds, the Captain continues to sail, navigating through challenges and opportunities, ensuring that every sip of coffee brewed in China resonates with the rich, authentic flavors that he has tirelessly championed.
In this rejuvenated narrative, Jeremy’s story becomes not just a chronicle of his own journey but also a potent reflection of the evolution, challenges, and heartwarming successes of China’s specialty coffee industry. It is a tale that hopes to inspire the next generation of coffee enthusiasts, both in China and beyond, to brew their own stories with passion, ethics, and an unwavering belief in their dreams.