The boom of coffee in Asian markets


Almost one third of world coffee production comes from the Asian continent

There is a new trend that has spread all over Asia. A drink that is a symbol of taste and refinement, but also of Western influence in the region. We are talking about coffee. In the last five years, the consumption of coffee in Asian countries has grown by 1.5%; a trend that follows the rise of the middle class, eager to always try new products. But it is also a very extensive cultural phenomenon, which derives from colonialism and is intertwined with today's trends that come from the West. In China, for example, the taste for this drink is handed down above all by people who have studied or worked abroad. However, the pandemic has considerably reduced travelling, and coffee lovers started to be fascinated by the local varieties of the drink. Not surprisingly, in the last couple of years, Asian coffee producers are starting to rival big Western industries, such as Starbucks and Costa. And today 29% of coffee beans in the world come from the Asian continent.

Among the main coffee producers there is Vietnam, a real giant of the industry. Ever since the French colonizers first harvested "crimson cherries'' - as coffee beans were nicknamed - this drink has remained part of the Vietnamese tradition. Like for us, in Italy, in Vietnam "going out for a coffee" is a method to socialize. Social networks such as TikTok have drived the interest of the masses for coffee, involving an increasingly wider audience: from young people who want Starbucks-model frappuccini to "expert" consumers, intrigued by the procedures for preparing and roasting the beans. If before the pandemic the main objective was exports, today it has been realized that domestic consumption is just as important.

Indonesia, the second largest producer of coffee in the region, has also seen an increase in local sales in recent years. Local variants are also very popular, such as Kopi Susu, an iced coffee with milk and palm sugar. Coffee, effectively distributed even during the pandemic with delivery services, has never stopped circulating, attracting more and more admirers and onlookers, eager to support local products rather than consume foreign brands. Not to mention that 90% of Indonesians are Muslim, and therefore looking for a social drink that does not contain alcohol.

China is having a similar experience. The arrival of foreign chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee in the late 90's triggered coffee culture in the metropolis, attracting young consumers. But with the start of local chains and street kiosks in recent years, public interest has shifted to the consumption of local products. A choice derived not only from the pandemic, but also from trade tensions with the United States. According to a March 2021 report by the financial newspaper Yicai, Shanghai now has the largest number of independent coffee shops in the world, with 6,913 outlets. More than 3,826 in Tokyo, 3,233 in London and 1,591 in New York. Also in this case it was young people, especially those who studied abroad, to import the coffee fashion. 

In Japan, tea no longer reigns supreme. The Japanese coffee market is the largest on the Asian continent, with sales exceeding $ 24 billion in 2020. In contrast, tea consumption is decreasing. According to the Japanese Association for the production of tea, the consumption of the drink fell to 108,454 tons in 2019. A decrease of 30% compared to 2004. It is mainly women who have approached coffee. The arrival of "Western" cafes, where smoking is prohibited, has in fact attracted many young customers, previously discouraged by the traditional and smoky Japanese cafes. The pandemic also increased the demand for machines and equipment for making coffee at home.

In South Korea, coffee has become an integral part of the social ecosystem. The market includes consumers of all ages and backgrounds and is aimed above all at those who have made coffee shops their second homes: people who, in addition to sipping a coffee, sit at tables to study, work and talk with friends. And coffee culture is expected to become even more entrenched in South Korea as it is in all of Asia. With the expansion of the middle class, the number of people exposed to a Western lifestyle will increase, bringing the tradition of coffee into their own homes.

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