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The Rise of Coffee Culture in China: Millennials’ Influence and Growing Presence of Coffee Shops

Introduction to Coffee Culture in China

China is known worldwide for its tea culture, with a history that dates back thousands of years. Tea is so ingrained in Chinese culture that it is used as a symbol of hospitality, respect, and friendship.

However, in recent years, coffee has burst into the scene, creating a new coffee culture that is slowly replacing the traditional tea culture.


Growing Popularity of Coffee in China

Coffee was introduced to China in the 1800s by French missionaries, but it wasn’t until the last decade that coffee production and industry has exploded, namely due to the growth of international coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee. In this article, we will take a closer look at the history of tea in China, the growing popularity of coffee in China, and the emergence of China as a coffee producing country.

History and Popularity of Tea in China

Chinese tea culture is vast, and it is one of the oldest and most refined cultures in the world. Tea is considered as the soul of Chinese culture, and it has played an essential role in the country’s social, economic, and cultural development.

The history of tea dates back to the Tang dynasty in the 9th century, where Lu Yu, a renowned tea master, wrote the book of tea, which detailed the various ways of brewing tea, tea-making utensils, and the etiquette surrounding tea drinking. Tea was initially used for medicinal purposes and later evolved into a social drink.

It was spread throughout China by traders and travelers and became an essential aspect of Chinese culture. The art of tea making is deeply rooted in Chinese tradition, and each time there is a significant event, tea must be served to the guests.

Tea is a symbol of hospitality and friendship, and it is customary for the host to carefully prepare and serve the tea to the guests. Despite the growing popularity of coffee, tea still remains a crucial part of Chinese culture and is consumed extensively throughout the country.

Tea is still the preferred beverage for traditional events such as weddings, business meetings, and formal occasions.

Growing Popularity of Coffee in China

In recent years, coffee has gained popularity in China, primarily due to the growth of international coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee. These coffee giants have set up shop throughout China and have become popular hangout spots for young people, especially millennials.

Coffee shops have become places for socializing and relaxation, and the younger generation has embraced this new culture enthusiastically. In addition to international coffee chains, local cafes have also begun to pop up throughout China, offering a taste of locally-sourced coffee.

The emergence of China as a Coffee-Producing Country

China is slowly emerging as a coffee-producing country, with small farms and plantations producing high-quality coffee beans that are gaining recognition in the international coffee market. The Yunnan province in southern China is home to some of the best coffee-producing regions in the world, with its unique climate and soil making it ideal for growing coffee beans.

In addition to small farms, large coffee plantations are also being established by international coffee companies such as Nestle and Starbucks. China’s coffee production capacity is expanding, and it is projected that China will soon become a major player in the global coffee industry.


China’s coffee industry is still relatively young, but it is growing rapidly. With the emergence of coffee shops and the increasing domestic consumption of coffee, China is poised to become a major player in the coffee market.

The country’s rich culture and tradition have always centered on tea, but coffee is slowly gaining ground, especially among the younger generation. While tea will always hold a special place in Chinese culture, coffee is slowly becoming an integral part of China’s social and cultural landscape.

Millennials and the Rise of Coffee Culture in China

Coffee culture in China has been on the rise, and it can be attributed to the growing number of millennials. Millennials are changing the way things are done in China, and the rise of coffee culture is no exception.

This younger generation has been very influential in the development of hipster culture in China, and coffee is a significant part of this subculture. Millennials’ Influence on Coffee Culture in China

Millennials are the most creative and tech-savvy generation, and their influence on coffee culture in China cannot be ignored.

This generation has embraced coffee as a lifestyle choice, and they have transformed the way coffee is consumed in the country. Millennials appreciate the boutique coffee experience, and they are willing to pay a premium price for good coffee.

This demand has given rise to coffee shops that cater to this demographic, and these establishments can be found all over major Chinese cities. The coffee shops feature trendy aesthetics and unique coffee brewing methods, which add to the coffee drinking experience.

Many of these coffee shops are located in urban areas, which is where the majority of China’s middle class reside. Coffee shops have become popular hangout spots for young adults in urban areas.

These shops offer a cozy atmosphere and are known to have excellent Wi-Fi, making them a perfect spot for students looking to study or work on their laptops.

Coffee Shops Catering to Young Adults in Urban Areas

Coffee shops are rapidly becoming a part of urban Chinese culture. Urban middle-class Chinese millennials are the primary target audience for these shops, and they have embraced coffee culture with open arms.

The stores range from large coffee chains to independent cafes, which all strive to create unique atmospheres to draw customers. These independent cafes are dotted all around the larger cities of China and are characterized by their individualistic feels and strong coffee-focus.

The establishment will often work directly with the coffee growers to ensure a unique and thoughtful presentation of their brew. Coffee art and innovative music selections are also part of the experience.

The coffee shops that cater to the younger generation are designed to create unique experiences that differ from traditional teas or corporate cafes.

Availability of Coffee in China

Despite the growing popularity of coffee in China, availability can still be limited. Coffee is still a relatively new addition to Chinese culture, and the majority of people still prefer tea.

In rural areas, the availability of coffee can be limited, and people mainly drink instant coffee. This is due to the limited exposure to fresh coffee and the affordability of producing instant coffee locally.

As such, the quality of coffee in rural areas is typically low compared to the large cities where coffee culture is predominantly growing. Coffee is available in hotels across China, but the quality varies greatly.

Some hotels offer instant coffee, while others offer ground coffee. For those travelling who require good coffee, it should be researched well before deciding on a hotel to stay in.

Cafes are available throughout the urban areas, and they offer a range of coffee drinks, pastries and light snacks. Tea, Pastries, and Wi-Fi Available in Coffee Shops

Most coffee shops in China serve tea as well as specialty coffee drinks.

Tea is still a vital part of Chinese culture, and it is preferred by many people over coffee. Pastries are also commonly found in coffee shops, and many of them are made fresh on-site.

These baked goods are a perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee or a refreshing glass of iced tea. Wi-Fi is also widely available in coffee shops.

Many of these shops have become a popular spot for students and young adults alike to study, work or relax. Access to free high-speed Wi-Fi is a major draw for many people, and these shops have become the go-to space for people to spend their leisure time.


The rise of coffee culture in China can be attributed to the growing influence of millennials. This young generation is changing the way coffee is consumed in China, and their preference for quality coffee experiences has driven the demand for coffee shops that cater to their needs.

Coffee shops are rapidly becoming part of Chinese culture, especially in urban areas where the majority of the middle class reside. While availability may vary from region to region, coffee is gradually becoming more widely available throughout China’s larger urban-centres.

Coffee Shops and Chains in China

With the rise of coffee culture in China, there has been a significant increase in the number of coffee shops and chains operating in the country. Brands such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and other national chains have established a significant presence in the Chinese market.

In this article, we will delve deeper into these national chains, the growing presence of coffee shops in urban areas, and provide a guide to ordering coffee in China. Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Other National Chains in China

Starbucks and Costa Coffee are two examples of international coffee chains that have established a significant presence in China.

Starbucks opened its first store in China in 1999, and currently, there are over 4,200 outlets across the country. Costa Coffee has also been expanding in China since 2006, and the brand now has over 500 stores in the region.

In addition to these international chains, Chinese coffee chains such as Luckin Coffee and Haidilao are also making a name for themselves. Luckin Coffee was launched in January 2018 and operated more than 4,500 stores as of December 2020.

Meanwhile, Haidilao, a hot pot chain with over 900 locations throughout China, has been adding coffee shops to their chains in recent years.

Growing Presence of Coffee Shops in Urban Areas

Coffee shops are rapidly becoming an integral part of urban Chinese culture, and there has been a significant increase in the number of coffee shops operating in urban areas. For example, Shanghai is filled with an abundance of coffee shops, both small independent ones and larger international franchises, and provides a range of selections for coffee lovers.

Many of these coffee shops have been designed to cater to China’s younger generations, with the latest technologies and innovation at the core of their operations. The shops offer a unique experience to customers, with handcrafted beverages and unique snack offerings.

The clean, modern designs, light music, and relaxed atmosphere provided by the space have quickly become an emotional outlet for many in China, allowing them to experience the luxury of slowing down for a while.

Guide to Ordering Coffee in China

Ordering coffee in China can be challenging for those new to the region. However, it’s not that difficult once you understand the routine.

When you walk up to the counter, you will be presented with a menu featuring a wide variety of coffee options, including espresso, cappuccino, latte, and Americano.

It is important to mention the sweetness of the coffee when ordering in China.

The drinks in China are typically sweeter than those in Europe or the United States. Thus, ordering your beverages with less sweetener is quite important if you don’t like too much sugar in your drinks.

The staff at the store will message you on your mobile device (or take note of your order) and serve you the completed drink in just a few minutes. We also recommend checking the size of the drink.

You’ll notice that in China, there are two different sizes for drinks: tall or short. Ordering the “grande” size in Starbucks may result in you getting a big surprise, as that is not how it’s categorized in some coffee shops in Chinese regions.

Many coffee shops in China have staff that speaks English, but if they don’t, you could consider using a translation app on your phone to help communicate your needs. Commonly, coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi, which offers a good chance to make use of translation apps, while you relax with your coffee.


The growth of coffee culture in China has created a wave of new opportunities for established global coffee chains and emerging Chinese start-ups. Coffee shops are everywhere, providing high-quality coffee experiences to young people and the rising middle class.

Understanding the range of drink options and ordering procedures can make your experience easier and more enjoyable in China. With coffee being a staple of the modern Chinese lifestyle, you’re bound to find great brew all over the land.

In conclusion, the rise of coffee culture in China, driven by the influence of millennials, has led to the establishment of numerous coffee shops and the presence of international chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee. These coffee shops have become significant social spaces in urban areas, offering a place for relaxation, study, and socialization.

Understanding the ordering process and preferences, such as the sweetness levels, is essential for a satisfactory coffee experience in China. As the coffee culture continues to grow, it serves as a testament to the changing tastes and preferences of the Chinese population.

Coffee has become more than just a beverage; it represents a lifestyle and a sense of community. So, whether you’re in Shanghai or rural China, exploring the local coffee scene can provide a window into the evolving modern Chinese culture.

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