Americans know and love Chinese food. According to the Chinese American Restaurant Association, there are more Chinese restaurants in the US than McDonald’s, KFCs, Pizza Huts, Wendy’s, and Taco Bells combined. But how many people can say their morning brew is a Chinese coffee from Yunnan?
Meet Joe (Wenboe) Yang, owner of Super Joy Coffee Lab, on a mission to expose Portlanders to a side of China beyond its cuisine. On Super Joy’s menu, patrons will find single-origin coffees roasted by Yang himself (every bag shows a pair of chopsticks holding a single coffee bean like a grain of rice), along with specialty lattes that incorporate lesser-known ingredients found in China.
“I like cooking a lot. So that’s why I’m always interested in using the Chinese ingredients to make new coffee drinks,” says Yang. The sweet osmanthus latte is inspired by memories of the blooming autumn plant in Yang’s hometown of Hefei, China, the capital of Anhui Province. The Sichuan pepper mocha offers a tongue-numbing, chocolaty experience.
Yang has spent over a decade in the coffee industry. He studied specialty coffee in New Zealand, then opened his own café in Hefei. He constantly improved his craft, winning latte art competitions while acquiring certifications of coffee excellence from the Specialty Coffee Association and the Coffee Quality Institute. He’s claimed seven titles, including 2020 US Roasting Champ. He moved to the coffee mecca of Portland in 2016, then spent almost three years behind the bar at shops including Case Study and Fehrenbacher Hof. He opened Super Joy Coffee Shop, formerly known as In J Coffee, on the South Park Blocks near Portland State University in 2018; the Coffee Lab in Goose Hollow, where he roasts beans and tests new drinks, followed in spring 2021.
When the pandemic hit, Yang hired “Jarvis” to join his team. The robotic arm, currently stationed downtown at Muji (a Super Joy wholesale client), was developed by Danish company Universal Robots to froth milk and pour latte art for a contactless experience.
Yang also began roasting more green coffee from Yunnan, a Chinese province bordering Laos and Vietnam. “I asked around, and a lot of people didn’t know that China grew coffee!” says Yang. “Most people [only] knew about pu erh tea.” Super Joy is here to set us—deliciously, aromatically—straight.