China Tea Growers Shift to Coffee

As China’s tea farmers look to coffee for more profits, the Los Angeles Times reports the Yunnan provincial government plans to increase the production of coffee to 200,000 tons by 2020: “My sole income depends on coffee now,” said Ma Jiaying, a farmer from a dab-sized hamlet in Pu’er called Tea Tree Village. Few pairings denote upward mobility more than an iPhone in one hand and a white-and-green Starbucks cup in the other. In central Beijing, the company’s smallest cappuccino costs about $4.33, making a Chinese Starbucks habit one of the most expensive in the world. “Starbucks in China for the young generation is almost like religion,” said Liu Minghui, head of Pu’er-based Ai Ni Coffee, China’s largest coffee production and exporting company. “They want to be seen drinking their coffee. A lot of these Chinese kids have come back from studying overseas where they’ve been introduced to this new lifestyle.” At 120,000 tons last year, China’s coffee consumption was only 6% that of the U.S., the world’s top consumer of hot joe. Meanwhile, about 1 million tons of tea was consumed in China last year. Amid the shift to more coffee consumption and production, the Financial Times reports China’s growing coffee culture is threatening tea houses: According to a report published this week by Mintel, a retail consultancy, the number of coffee houses in China has nearly doubled in the last five years to over 31,000. Over the same period, the number of Chinese tea houses rose by only 4 per cent to 50,000. Yes, there are still more tea houses than coffee shops. But the bad news is that their clientele are often elderly, which may not bode well for the future. “Tea houses have targeted higher-end consumers with expensive teas, food and service, but lack differentiation, and ...
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