#TheCoffeeRoad: a bridge between East and West

Travel is all about discovery and encounters with different cultures. It brings with it a host of images, emotions and experiences. From ancient times, man has felt the need to travel and to broaden his horizons.

Today we may be used to travelling for leisure and enjoyment, but in the past people travelled almost exclusively through necessity – in search of food, raw materials or new trade routes. The most important era from this point of view was the age of the great Voyages of Exploration which, in the 15th and 16th centuries, led to the discovery of the Far East and caused us to re-evaluate Western concepts of geography, philosophy and anthropology. This gradual integration of cultures was epitomised by the Silk Road, a complex system of trade routes that for centuries created a bridge between East and West, stretching for almost 8000 kilometers from the Chinese city of Chang’an (modern day Xian) all the way to Rome.

The Silk Road gave rise to an exchange that was not only commercial, but also intellectual, linguistic and cultural. This is just what our project #TheCoffeeRoad aims to do. Astoria has launched the project to celebrate the second year of its sponsorship of the finals of the World Latte Art Championship and the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship to be held at the Hotelex Shanghai international trade fair taking place from 29th March to 1st April 2016. Through the project, coffee will become a symbol of cultural unity, interaction and exchange – just as the Silk Road once was.

History tells of how coffee first appeared in China when, in the late 19th century, a French missionary planted some beans in Yunnan, a province in the southwest of the country. Since then, coffee has become increasingly fashionable in China, particularly amongst the upper-middle classes – to the detriment of the traditional national favourite, tea – so much so that in recent years production has increased from 104 thousand sacks (a sack weighing 60 kg) in 1998 to around 1.5 million sacks today. And this figure could reach 2.8 million sacks by 2020.

#TheCoffeeRoad project will have a dual aim: to create new synergies between East and West and, at the same time, to celebrate the culture, history and traditions of the country once known as the Celestial Empire through the medium of illustration.

The stars of the show are the Astoria Plus4Champions, the official coffee machines of the World Latte Art Championship and the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship. To mark the occasion, the machines will be customised with illustrations ranging from historic symbols such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City to elements of Chinese culture such as the dragon and the Sanxing deities, as well as the settings and subjects that have characterised the story of China through to the modern day. And, of course, there will be space devoted to Marco Polo, the insatiable Venetian traveller and avid enthusiast of the East, not to mention the first European to describe in detail the wonders of Asia and China.