It’s time to look at how coffee is enjoyed in the country with the largest population, nearly 1.4 billion people. When we think about China, our first instinct is to say without a doubt that it is a tea drinking country.
Based on a legend, tea was discovered in China more than 2700 years before the common era by the mythical emperor called the Emperor of the Five Grains, while the history of coffee goes back only to the 10th century, with a number of reports and legends surrounding its first use.
Despite China being a tea drinking country, coffee consumption has been increasing on average 16% per year over the past decade, reaching almost 2 million bags of coffee in 2014 (source: International coffee organization). The 2016/17 calendar year is expected instead to see 2.5 million bags consumed (source: USDA).
Chinese coffee consumption has nearly tripled just in the past four years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, faster than any other major market the agency tracks. And that potential market is enormous; in fact Starbucks is so confident in the market that it plans to open its first international roasting house and tasting room in 2017 in Shanghai, and believes the country could become its top market. The Seattle-based company, which already operates more than 2,000 stores in China, plans to add 500 shops a year over the next five years.
Based on Euromonitor report the Chinese retail coffee market has long been driven by instant coffee products, which make up of 99% of the market in China. Only about 1% of the market is taken up by coffee bean products. Premium coffee, meaning no more than eight full defects in 300 grams of coffee and a moisture content of between 9 and 13 percent, is consumed by merely a few Chinese consumers.
An average mainland Chinese citizen drinks about three cups of coffee per year, which puts China near the bottom of the pile, just above countries like Sudan and North Korea. By contrast, the the US chugs 363 cups per person and the UK is around 250 cups a year, according to the research firm Euromonitor International.