Posted in Kafevend Blog
When it comes to China, the first drink that appears in your head is inevitably tea. Though tea itself began at the confluence of a number of countries in the region, it was the ancient Chinese who really took it to heart and still do to this day. China is the world's biggest tea grower, producing over one and a half million tonnes a year in recent times. Whilst per capita the country isn't even in the top ten of tea drinking countries, the sheer number of people residing within China means that it consumes most of the tea it produces- though it still has plenty left over for export.
Over the last few years however China has been starting to import larger amounts of our other top drink: coffee. This has mainly been due to the efforts of coffee shop chains such as Starbucks, Costa and others originating in Asia itself like the South Korean Maan Coffee. At the moment the Chinese only drink four cups of coffee a year on average, but again given such a large population this makes for an awful lot of coffee sold. The big coffee chains are therefore looking to build more stores over the coming years as interest in the drink grows. With higher prices than those found here in many western countries, the coffee shops are promoting coffee as more of a luxury item, particularly appealing to the growing middle class found in Chinese cities. The coffees on offer are also a little different to what we might expect. China has a slightly sweeter pallette when it comes to drinks, so lattes are popular along with more specialized drinks like the green tea frappuccino.
It's not just imported coffee that can be found in these shops. China itself has a small but burgeoning coffee growing sector. It is currently producing around 120,000 tons a years, up from half that just five years ago. Interestingly much of the coffee grown in China comes from the Puer region in Yunnan Province, more commonly associated with the wide variety of teas grown there such as, of course, the eponymous Pu-erh tea. Whilst China still has a way to go to match the vast quantities of coffee grown by its neighbours India, Vietnam and Indonesia, the increasing demand for coffee could soon see China enter the record books as one of the world's top coffee producers. It'll certainly be worth it for the farmers, as coffee will be fetching them more money than crops like sugar cane at present and into the near future.
With coffee production still in its infancy, the hope is that efforts to promote more sustainable growing practices will be easier to implement at this stage. Already lots of the coffee being grown is of the sun grown variety which isn't terribly good for the environment- let us hope greener heads prevail as China's coffee market takes off!