Last Updated on February 5, 2021
When we think about the many things China produces, coffee is among the least that comes to our minds. While China is not often associated with coffee production and consumption, it has made enormous progress in this area. For example, during the last four years, the amount of coffee consumed in the Middle Kingdom has tripled. Tea remains the most consumed hot drink in the country.
However, the rapid development of the Chinese coffee market is noteworthy. International companies such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee are well-known in the country. The market development is so fast that a new Starbucks opens in China every 15 hours. In the bustling city of Shanghai, there are no less than 6,500 coffeehouses.
This fast development responds to increasing local demand. Many young Chinese, the so-called millennial generation, often travel to western countries. They have adopted some aspects of the European lifestyle, including coffee drinking.
History of Coffee Production in China
French missionaries took the first coffee samples for cultivation in China in the 1800s. The first coffee plantations appeared in the Yunnan province. This region has proved to be fertile for the cultivation of coffee. Even now, over 90% of the coffee production in China comes from this province.
This area produces Arabica varieties, namely Catimor, Typica, and Bourbon. Other provinces produce the Robusta species, albeit in less quantity. For instance, the Fujian and Hainan provinces produce Robusta. But it amounts to only 2% of the total coffee production in China.
In 1988, the coffee industry began to develop in China. It happened with assistance from the World Bank, which the Chinese government used to reorganize this segment. By the mid-1990s, China was already the 30th largest coffee producer in the world.
The last 20 years have witnessed impressive development, which has positioned China among the 20 largest coffee exporters worldwide. Today, the coffee production of China surpasses the combined production of Kenya and Tanzania. The main importers of Chinese coffee are Germany, the USA, Belgium, Malaysia, and France.
Coffee consumption has also grown in the country. The first Starbucks coffeehouse in China opened in Beijing in 1999. Currently, there are over 2,000 Starbucks coffeehouses. This multinational company plans to open 3,000 more in the coming years. Hogood Coffee is the most popular local coffee brand in China. This company produces instant coffee. Nowadays, the Chinese consume more coffee than the Australians.
Quality of the Coffee Produced in China
It’s not easy to rate the quality of Chinese coffee. On one side, it is not at the same level as the best international brands. On another side, it is good enough for exportation. Most of the coffee beans are processed wet. This means that water is used to wash the pulp and peel off the fresh coffee cherry.
The Chinese Coffee Culture
Despite the influence of Western culture, the consumption of coffee is still low in China. The average yearly consumption in this country is just 3 cups per person. This is very low in comparison to other countries like the USA, where the figure is 363 cups.
The high cost of coffee in China can partly explain the low local consumption. A latte in China can cost $6, which is the price of a full meal. However, as the purchasing power of the Chinese increases, so will coffee consumption. Experts believe the growth of coffee consumption in the Middle Kingdom will be 16% per year on average.
Also, the Chinese are shifting their preference for instant coffee toward brewed coffee. Representatives of Nespresso, a popular brand of instant coffee in China, attest to this phenomenon. The Chinese don’t regard the drinking of coffee as a social experience. Instead, they prefer to drink coffee alone. It is a time in which they connect to the world on a more spiritual level. Drinking a cup of coffee also allows them a time of reflection.
Yet, coffee consumption is still limited to the big cities in China. And even if you visit a coffeehouse, you’ll find on the menu a variety of teas, pastries, ice cream, and sandwiches.
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