Coffee Culture Around the World: China
You might think that Chinese consumers would only ever want tea. The country is known for producing and consuming this herbal beverage, but coffee is growing in popularity as well. Join us as we take a look at China's burgeoning coffee culture in another installment of Coffee Culture Around the World!
The Land of Tea
As mentioned above, the main source of caffeine for most in China is tea. This makes sense, tea is produced en masse in China, and it's very affordable. In many cases, imported coffee is very expensive, and China's roasting industry is practically non-existent. Instead of specialty coffee like you might be used to, most Chinese consumers drink instant. This means that our favorite brewed beverage isn't really consumed to enjoy, so much as for the caffeine. Perhaps most interestingly, China does actually produce a fair amount of green coffee.
Almost all of the coffee grown in China is arabica. This green coffee is usually shipped to roasters in Germany, because its quality isn't high enough to go to craft roasters. It's also too high quality to be consumed locally, which has hurt coffee's prominence in the country. Just over the border is Vietnam, which produces most of the instant coffee that the Chinese people drink. This coffee is usually made with robusta beans, which are most prevalent in Vietnam. This has led to coffee's aforementioned status as a utilitarian drink.
China's interest in coffee has grown considerably over the last couple of decades. As major coffee brands continue to seek entry into this massive market, young people in China are also voting with their wallets. Many millennials see coffee and other Western products as a status symbol. Drinking coffee may be more expensive than tea, but it's also a symbol of one's position. This increase in demand has led to a more active roaster scene in the country as well. Instead of just enjoying instant coffee at home, young people in China are seeking coffee shops and cafés to try out new roasts.
In this way, large, corporate coffee producers are actually driving a smaller, more innovative roasting scene. This tracks with the arc of coffee popularity in neighboring Japan as well. It's an exciting new frontier for coffee that will hopefully breed innovation in the West as well!
Thanks for joining us for this look into coffee culture in yet another interesting locale. Remember to make coffee you love!