The tea leaf whose humble journey from China to India centuries ago, heralded one of the most popular drinks on the subcontinent, is expected to lose her crown to the mighty coffee bean. Considered the brew of the newly affluent, the internationally well-travelled, the connoisseur of good taste and the monarch of a modern life – everything young Chinese and Indians are proving to be, coffee is taking China and India by storm.
While China is expected to be the largest coffee market outside the US by 2014, India just opened her doors to the largest coffee chain – Starbucks. While throngs of yuppies waited outside the newly launched flagship coffee store in the commercial district of south Mumbai, last week others pondered over the storm brewing in the cup.
While tea which was the epitomical diet of Indians and Chinese – starting at breakfast and consumed throughout the day, is fast losing steam. The biggest marketing coup of all time, coffee makers are quickly converting hard core tea drinkers to the bitter brew. India which is heating up to China’s levels of coffee drinkers (though it already is a common drink in the south) is eager to catch up with everything hip and modern that coffee symbolises. Starbucks today has a store in almost every big road in China’s largest cities and Nestle, already sells two out of three cups of soluble coffee on the mainland.
Besides epitomizing the new India and China we all want to belong to, coffee shops in both nations also represent a place where friends can meet over a casual cup, catch up over gossip, conduct an informal office meeting or get to know a date better. It provides a space that is public yet private. It’s a space where your parents don’t come and where it’s not too expensive to sit for hours. It’s a place where its cool to be seen and where you can meet interesting people. The coffee shop has transformed the social life of a young, Chinese and Indian.
Additionally, Nestle, Starbucks, Illy and Coffee bean and tea leaf have all localised products for the Indian and Chinese markets. In order to sell, they’ve created chocolaty-watered down coffee’s, green tea lattes and sandwiches stuffed with paneer tikka. The market of 2 billion plus is also incentive enough for many coffee chains to consider growing coffee in the area as well.
For countries that would never have thought of drinking the bitter brew or paying a minimum wage laborers daily salary on a cup of coffee both China and India have come a long way in modernizing habits.