Coffee Culture in China

In China, is it tea or coffee 

that is thriving?


As we all know, or just now finding out, tea has been a big and important part of Chinese Culture.

In China, tea became an integral segment of Buddhist practice, so much so that it is said that Zen and tea share the same flavor.

The act of drinking tea developed into a ceremony and spiritual practice.


There’s a story that describes how the Chinese discovered tea.

Emperor Shen Nung (the mythical Chinese inventor of agriculture,) was sitting under a tree while his servant boiled drinking water when some leaves from the tree blew into it.

The Emperor thought he would try the accidentally created infusion. 

The tree was Camellia sinensis, and the result was the tea we know today.

The story is beautiful and it’s hard to know if it’s true, but it’s nice to think about it.

Nevertheless, during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE) tea was established as the national drink of China.


How did coffee step

 onto the scene in China?



According to the BBC article,  coffee is elbowing its way into tea culture in China.

That’s right. They are not giving up on their tea tradition but instead welcoming a new one – coffee consumption. 

It has skyrocketed in recent years. So, yes. 

People drink coffee in China.

Nevertheless, China’s population drinks much less coffee per person than the West.


Surprisingly though, Shanghai has the most coffee shops in the world.

Known as the city that introduced coffee to China in the 1800s, Shanghai now has nearly 6,000 coffeehouses.

There is even a coffee festival in Shanghai worth attending. 


Shanghai Coffee Festival is “a heaven for foodies, a great place to discover new cafés.”

Don’t be surprised by the fact that millennials and gen Z in China, love their cup of joe in an aesthetically pleasing cafe and in good company, too.

Young people are adopting Western fashion, watching American movies, taking their coffees at Starbucks, driving German cars, and so on.

More and more Chinese people learn to drink coffee thanks to Starbucks.


How did Starbucks succeed in China?

Starbucks has been present in China since 1999.

When Starbucks entered the market, they understood that it wasn’t about the coffee at first. 

There was a revival of the “tea house culture” that had existed for thousands of years.


In other words, Starbucks embraced the concept of being a “third place”

between home and work and brought that approach to China –but with a modernized, upscale, Western approach.

Western brands have an advantage over local Chinese brands because there is a common reputation that western brands have better and high-quality products and services.


Therefore knowing that Starbucks has opened 5,100 stores in 200 cities in mainland China shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Urban Chinese coffee consumers love to experiment with new products, especially from the West.

Having this in mind, Starbucks already has plans to enter 100 new Chinese cities by 2022.

China is definitely on track to become a coffee-drinking nation.



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