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Coffee is thriving in Asia. Almost one third of Chinese for example now consume coffee outside their home. As in many other countries, Asian coffee shops are more about the gathering of friends for a social event than about the coffee itself. In Asia, the coffee of choice is a lighter sweeter coffee, unlike that in many of the Western countries. The favorite coffee in Hong Kong, for example is cappuccino, preferred by about thirty percent of those who purchase ready to drink coffee outside the home. In second place is mocha, also a sweeter coffee preferred by one quarter of the coffee drinkers at coffee shops. Regular coffee comes in at 17 percent for the third place finish.
Traditionally, the people in Asia prefer tea, but the presence of chains like Starbucks have created a large and growing coffee culture in Asia. Over half of Asian coffee drinkers surveyed in Hong Kong felt that the flavor of the large international chains products was better than that of the independent small businesses. In other countries surveyed there was tension between the global company’s product and the local business. In the United States, for example, only 14 percent of those surveyed picked the global company’s products over local businesses.
In Hong Kong a full sixty percent of the survey respondents said that the best coffee around was from Starbucks.
A growing coffee culture in Asia has been fueled in part by young urban professionals who may have studied in Europe or the United States. They have returned to such cities as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and are continuing the habit of a cup of coffee and a light breakfast at the international chains such as Starbucks that they are familiar with from the time overseas. The coffee drinking habit is seen as sophisticated and more Westernized than the more traditional tea.
Coffee is imported to China from about 50 different coffee producing countries. There are companies as large as Arabica and companies small enough to carry beans into the country by hand. China itself has a small but growing coffee producing area.
Starbucks and Nestle are two of the major U.S. companies with a presence in Asia. Several European coffee companies compete for the Chinese market, including Illy, Lavazza and Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee which is also very popular in Japan.
Many Asians choose instant coffee at home. Coffee shops are opening rapidly, but many cannot afford the large brewing equipment needed for commercial sales. Some of the roasters are making the brewing equipment available to the specialty houses in return for agreeing to purchase a certain number of pounds each year. Few Chinese households own a coffeemaker.
In Indonesia, one of the major coffee exporting countries in the world has a strong and well-established coffee culture. Most of the fresh coffee is consumed by the older generation who has grown up using the product and enjoys the taste. The younger generation typically uses instant coffee for its benefits in helping one stay alert. Fortified coffee has made its way into the coffee culture in Asia by adding ginseng or more recently ginger to the regular coffee to attract the older generation. The seniors will drink the beverage for its health benefits even though the taste is less desirable.