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  1. #1
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    What is China's coffee culture?

    Rather than me trying to write about China's coffee culture with my "limited vocab" English, I rather have you guys read an article that was wrote by Laura Elizabeth Cunningham on April 28, 2010 in Forbes magazine.
    Hope that you enjoy it and if you have any questions, please let me know. I am staying in China for next 12 days, so, perhaps I can get some info or photos for you guys.


    China's Coffee Culture

    The day before I left for my first trip to China, in 2005, I met my undergraduate advisor for a final lunch. Though it seemed we had discussed everything I might need to know to prepare for six months in Beijing, when he asked if I had any last-minute questions, I realized I had overlooked one very important detail.

    “I can get coffee in China, right?” I asked.
    At the time it didn’t seem like an absurd query. After all, everyone knows about Chinese tea, but coffee? I suddenly worried that I might be facing 180 caffeine-free days.

    My advisor assured me that, at the very least, I could buy instant coffee, and he knew there would be Starbucks in Beijing. And indeed there was, I discovered upon exiting the baggage claim area at the Beijing airport and immediately coming face-to-face with a Starbucks outlet. It was the first of many such encounters, as during the following four years, I moved between China and the U.S. and spent plenty of time drinking coffee on both continents.

    The omnipresence of Starbucks stores on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai is frequently mentioned as one example of China’s growing taste for foreign food and drink; it’s easy to assume, looking at the familiar restaurant signs proliferating in the country’s major cities, that China will quickly become a nation consuming Subway sandwiches, Outback steaks and Papa John’s pizzas.

    I realized, however, in my daily search for a shot of caffeine, that the story of coffee in China is a complicated one, involving not only international megacorporations such as Starbucks, but also individual coffee-shop owners such as Xiao Xin, who ran a small cafe in an old Beijing hutong house that I found a pleasant place to study. And, despite China’s increasing consumption of coffee, it’s unlikely that the brew will replace tea as the country’s drink of choice any time soon.

    Unlike pizza and hoagies, coffee’s history in China goes back to the 19th century, when Western missionaries and businessmen brought it with them to treaty ports such as Shanghai. During the 1920s and ’30s, as Shanghai basked in its reputation as the cosmopolitan “Paris of the East,” cafes served as one of the many markers of the city’s international flavor, though they were shut down after Mao and the Communists took control of the country in 1949.

    The reemergence of coffee shops in Shanghai since the 1980s has been part of the reemergence of the metropolis itself–a rise on the global stage embodied by the World Expo that opens in the city on May 1.

    As Jeffrey Wasserstrom notes in “All the Coffee in China” (a version of which can be found online; the full essay is in his book, China’s Brave New World–And Other Tales for Global Times), the present-day proliferation of cafes in Shanghai represents “both a novelty and a resumption of an old cosmopolitan trajectory that was interrupted for a time.”

    Enough history. Are the Chinese drinking coffee? Well, yes, but probably not as much as the many Westerners crowing about the ever-increasing number of Starbucks locations would lead readers to believe. It’s also important to discern what kind of coffee Chinese consumers are imbibing, as well as the kinds of customers that make up the drink’s market base.

    Since the beginning of the China boom in the last decade, the country has represented an attractive potential market for international coffee chains, with Starbucks leading the way in eastern cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Shenzhen. Even as American Starbucks outlets close as a result of overexpansion, there are no apparent plans to slow investment in China, where the company currently has almost 400 stores. (my note : as of today, there are 2700 starbucks in China, in 7 years of time, it added 2300 more)

    Chinese entrepreneurs saw the demand being created by the appearance of Western coffee shops and quickly responded by opening innumerable independent cafes. Occasionally the desire to capitalize on Starbucks’ popularity has gone too far, as in the case of Shanghai Xingbake Coffee, a chain sporting a logo suspiciously similar to Starbucks’ familiar green circle. (“Xingbake” is the Chinese name for Starbucks.)

    Starbucks sued Shanghai Xingbake for copyright infringement and won the case in 2006. Although Western chains such as Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Whitbread Group ‘s Costa Coffee undoubtedly dominate the China market, the presence of domestic chains and independent coffeehouses represents an important alternative. While Starbucks is trendy, it is also comparatively expensive, and local shops might have a more nuanced understanding of the tastes and preferences of Chinese coffee-drinkers.

    Those tastes and preferences confounded me when I first arrived in Beijing and attempted to purchase instant black coffee at a small supermarket near my school. Faced with countless boxes of something I had never heard of called “3-in-1 coffee,” I selected one at random and went home to try it out. As I quickly learned (repeatedly, as it took three or four tries for me to figure how not to buy 3-in-1 coffee), the packets contained a mixture of instant coffee, powdered milk and a heaping portion of sugar.

    Canned coffee drinks, available at all convenience stores for under a dollar, were similarly laced with copious amounts of milk and sugar. I got accustomed to the confusion expressed by baristas and fellow coffeehouse patrons every time I ordered black coffee, which–as far as I can tell–is rarely consumed in China. Most of the other customers sucked down ice cream-like frappuccinos or sweet lattes. I frequently noticed half-finished drinks abandoned by their purchasers–who appeared to want the cafe experience more than the coffee itself.

    Aside from one caffeine-dependent American student, most of the other cafe-goers fell into three general categories. There were often tables of middle-aged Chinese women chatting over coffee and pastries, especially in the late morning and early afternoon. Businessmen also held meetings at some coffee shops, though on more than one occasion I saw their frustration at the strict no-smoking policies in places like Starbucks and Costa Coffee. The third group was composed of young couples, who would often get comfortable on the cafe’s couches, nurse drinks and watch DVDs on a laptop together.

    I rarely, however, saw customers using places like Starbucks for the purpose I was most familiar with: unlike American college students, it didn’t appear that Chinese youth gathered at coffeehouses to cram for exams or study together.

    A drink from Starbucks can easily cost more than an entire meal atMcDonald’s , which in turn is several times as expensive than a simple dumpling dinner. Instant or canned coffee represents a much cheaper–and more readily accessible–source of caffeine for students studying the night away.

    When waiting in a long line at a crowded Shanghai Starbucks, it is easy to forget that this new surge in coffee consumption is largely limited to major cities on China’s eastern seaboard. Although coffee is grown in southwest China’s Yunnan province (as well as the island province of Hainan), during my travels through the countryside there I often had to forgo coffee for days, carefully rationing the packets of instant black coffee I had stashed in my backpack. Remote locales that attract large numbers of foreign tourists, such as the picturesque town of Yangshuo, have developed a small cafe industry catering to their tastes, but coffeehouses are not commonly found on the streets of Chinese villages.

    The profit margins of Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Chinese chains and independent cafes have rested on the developing demand for coffee among eastern China’s growing urban middle class. In absolute terms, China might soon become one of the world’s largest coffee markets, but the extent to which coffee drinking will enter rural areas is questionable.

    In the Western media today, there’s a recurring message that Chinese consumers are increasingly purchasing the same products and brand-names as their American counterparts. While the establishment of Starbucks and other global chains lends credence to that belief, there are crucial differences in the Chinese market that foreign investors need to be aware of before entering the country.

    Additionally, the expansion of these international companies is still limited to a relatively small geographic area, and only a small proportion of Chinese consumers are patronizing them.

    I can laugh now at my naive fear that I’d be forced to go without coffee in China, but I’ve also come to realize that my question wasn’t completely unreasonable. Sure, there are Starbucks aplenty and it’s easy to make instant coffee at home, but China doesn’t have the kind of pervasive coffee culture that’s found in many parts of the West. And, while many young urbanites patronize cafes as an outward sign of their engagement with global trends, their coffee-drinking is less a habit and more about seeking a certain kind of experience.


    Last edited by ensoluna; 10-13-2017 at 05:45 PM.

  2. #2
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    An average mainland Chinese person drinks about three cups of coffee a year (BTW, still 99% of coffee consumption is instant coffee, not brewed or any other types of specialty coffee. Also, probably the Chineses drinks about 800 cups of tea per year), which puts China near the bottom of the pile, just above countries like Sudan and North Korea (North Koreans drink coffee? Has money to buy coffee? Probably some of the instant coffee exports are done by 99 cent market coffee brands to North Korea :+)

    By contrast, the US gulps 363 cups per person (my wife? about 2000 cups a year! I am keep telling her to get a job in local coffee shop, even as a volunteer :+) and the UK drinks 250 cups a year

  3. #3
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    As far as the specialty coffee shops and culture is concerned, Shanghai is the capital of coffee. All the major coffee expos are in Shanghai, twice a year, and most of coffee importers and distributors are also in Shanghai.

    The specialty coffee does not come cheap in Shanghai. A cup of freshly roasted coffee sells for as much as $10, close to shops with 20 cent steam buns and $3 bowls of beef & chicken noodle. Seriously, if you eat couple of awesome steam buns with a hot soy milk in Shanghai for breakfast, that will probably put you back about $1.00 and for me, that is one of the best breakfast that I can have in China, on the go.

    Once in a while, I will cough up $10 for a cup of coffee (which is still not as good as what I make at home with AeroPress or Pour Over, not even close...), but honestly, I rather go to a Starbucks or Costa Coffee in Shanghai for a regular brewed coffee at $2.50 (their prices are about same as the prices in USA)

  4. #4
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    Whether you know it or not, China has its own coffee farming industry for more than 100 years.
    It started when a French missionary wen to southern province of Yunnan and planted the crop in the late 1800s.
    Now, this region grows more coffee than Kenya and Tanzania combined.

    However, this Yunnan beans are in awkward situation because their all Arabica beans are too good for local consumption, but not good enough for specialty roasters in overseas, even though a large portion is being exported to Germany.

    FYI, MOST OF WHAT THE CHINESE DRINK is imported from Vietnam (the world's largest Robusta producer). This Vietnam coffee farms are located just over the border from Yunnan province.

  5. #5
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    Currently Starbucks in China controls about 60 % of the cafe market. (coffee shop, not entire coffee sales including instant).
    From ICO's trade statistics, the growth of coffee in China over the past decade mirrors the same change in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. (which is an awesome news).

    As you may or may not know, Japan is now the #4 largest coffee consumer in the world.
    As for China? #17. because in average, all Chinese drinks only 5 to 6 cups IN A YEAR.
    Can you just imagine the demand if the Chinese reaches at least ONE CUP A WEEK? LET ALONE A CUP OR TWO EVERY DAY??????

    THAT will make me a really happy man! well, I am saying as a coffee exporter from Guatemala, ha ha ha

  6. #6
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    O.K.... I have a relative working in Shanghai. I send care packages (coffee) to him as the coffee there is mostly not good. The Shanghai coffee market caters mostly to expats though as my relative says Starbucks dominates the retail environment. Not sure the Starbucks flavour profile fits the Chinese market but (like India) you see people carrying around a Starbucks cup, that they may or may not have purchased last month. Just walking around with it is supposedly a status thing. I mean who in their right mind would pay $ 4 -$5 for a cup of coffee when the monthly average earnings of most in Shanghai is (I think) $800 ........... which is why you cram 5 families into a $1500 2-bedroom apartment ....leaving mostly expats to buy coffee

  7. #7
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    Im throwing in here, I'm very familiar with Chinese culture, My wifes Mainland China. I been there . I have family there. I'm going to make this short and sweet. without explanations because nobody can learn about China without being there. First off, Chinese people do not drink coffee for a couple of unresolvable reasons. Number one. There is no drinking water in China anywhere. All tap water must be boiled ,so you do not get sick. You cannot bathe or shower in China with skin cuts or you will eventually end up in the hospital. The waters that
    bad. Tea likes boiling, coffee does not like boiling, hence Chinese coffee sucks. Number two, tea has been in Chinese culture for thousands of years. Coffee has not. That aint changing. Number three . It does not grow there either. Number four. and its a big one. Chinese people believe coffee causes cancer. Amongst other things. Those are the big issues . Have a good day.

  8. #8
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    Waaay back, when I visited restaurants in China, I had to go watch them boil water as they would often just heat it up to serve tea. Drinking that sh1tty water, unboiled would make you sick

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmark View Post
    Waaay back, when I visited restaurants in China, I had to go watch them boil water as they would often just heat it up to serve tea. Drinking that sh1tty water, unboiled would make you sick
    i suppose that was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. not now though.

  10. #10
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    Still crappy coffee if I have to send coffee to people

 

 
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