SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O: Quote, Profile, Research), the world's biggest coffee-shop chain, said it planned to source coffee from China for the first time as it expands in a country with more than 5,000 years of tea-drinking culture.
Starbucks has been working with coffee farmers in China's southwestern Yunnan province to help them meet sourcing standards and has sent coffee shipments to the United States for testing, Starbucks China President Wang Jinlong said at the Reuters China Century Summit on Tuesday.
"China does produce some quality coffee," Wang said at the summit, held at the Reuters office in Shanghai.
He added that sourcing coffee from China would start "very soon, maybe in a couple of years".
Some analysts say import tariffs as high as 20 to 60 percent are the reason why companies such as Starbucks are considering sourcing coffee from China.
However, Starbucks' Shanghai-based spokeswoman, Caren Li, said the aim was to add new flavors, not to avoid tariffs.
Although coffee consumption is still less than one-tenth of tea consumption in China, it is becoming increasingly popular among Chinese, especially young people, because of its association with a Western lifestyle.
Coffee consumption in China is increasing 20 to 25 percent each year, and Starbucks' sales in the country are growing faster than that, Wang said.
That compares with Starbucks' sales growth target of 18 percent globally.
"China's growing middle class wants to enjoy life," Wang said. "We don't want to replace tea, we just want to add another choice, a new lifestyle."
[The article continues on the Reuters page, but I judged the rest of it to not be very interesting. What is interesting to me is that young people in China, and elsewhere, want to mimick Western lifestyles and consumption patterns. This will create cultural distance with older generations in China; it has already happened in Singapore, for example.
To be "Westernized" is viewed both positively and negatively. I was frequently accused in school of being too "Westernized," particularly since I spoke with a more Western accent (I sounded a bit British then, but I sound pretty American now.]