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True or False: The Chinese Are Choosing Coffee Over Tea

November 14, 2010

Some good things take time. Though coffee was “discovered” in Ethiopia in the sixth century and has been grown in Vietnam and other Asian countries, it didn’t take off in China until recently. Within the last decade it has made a dent in the popularity of the Chinese drink of choice, tea. Now, according to Sina- English, many Chinese are indeed choosing coffee over tea, at least part of the time.

Coffee is one of the world’s top-ranking traded commodities, especially among developing countries. China seems only too happy to jump into this niche. The climate in southern China, especially in the Yunnan province, is favorable for growing coffee. So far, only 30% of the available acreage has been utilized for coffee farming, so there is room to grow. Yunnan coffee is unique in its flavor and aroma, which hint of herbal spiciness; it has a strong coffee taste while lacking bitterness.

The company most responsible for establishing the export coffee business in China is Nescafe, who has been educating the Chinese farmers in coffee plantation skills, even to the point of instructing them how to set prices by following world rates on the web. But Nescafe is not selling within China, only exporting. There are actually organizations, such as the International Coffee Organization, watching our coffee consumption, so we know that China’s average annual per capita consumption is around 0.76 kilograms (kg) compared to Taiwan's annual per capita consumption of 0.95 kg. This is less than a tenth of the consumption in the most coffee-loving nations like Finland.

Now Starbucks is taking an interest in China’s coffee business. Since businessmen in China are actively promoting the coffee culture and product, it’s only a matter of time until coffee becomes a serious competitor to tea in China. It’s still too soon, however, to be hearing people turn down an offer of a cup of tea by saying “Not for all the coffee in China.”




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