Could it be? Is it possible? Coffee and tea can be counted among the many topics that divide us in our everyday lives. Like Macs or PCs, or boxers or briefs, coffee and tea tend to ignite fiery passionate love in us for one, and utter loathing for the other. But does it really have to be this way? Clearly Starbucks doesn't seem to think so, with their recent acquisition of Teavana, a chain of boutique tea stores found in malls all around the country. Even as they continue in their attempt to dominate the world with their aggressive expansion into the Chinese market where coffee consumption has seen a dramatic increase, they obviously see value in tea.
Modern trends in China reflect their newfound fondness for our beloved bean beverage as the number of coffee houses in the country has essentially doubled in the last 5 years with the number of cafes in China having increased to 31,783 up from 15,898 in 2007. Conversely, the increase in the number of tea houses in that same time frame was a mere 4 percent to a total of 50,984.
Matthew Crabbe, the director of Asia-Pacific Research at the the market research firm Mintel attributed the smaller increase to the lack of strongly branded tea houses and their focus on higher end consumers while cafes captured middle-market consumers. This factor, coupled with Starbucks' plans to make China its second home market make it pretty clear that Chinese consumers are readily adopting coffee as an alternative to tea. In addition to China, coffee has also seen a marked increase in popularity in India.
An important factor that needs to be considered in this trend is coffee culture, the social aspect of the drink that has been bringing people together for years. When we think of coffee shops, the general image that comes to mind is a cozy little place with dimmed lighting, free wi-fi, and plush furniture. For some people, the coffee may be secondary to the whole experience, who merely use it as an excuse to go out with friends, or get some work done on their laptop. With increasing middle-class populations in both China and India, coffee culture caters quite nicely to people with a bit of disposable income looking for a place to go with friends.So where does all of this leave Tea? Well, like coffee, tea is steeped in history and tradition, and something that should be made clear is that it still remains an immensely popular beverage in both countries. Mintel's report indicated that in China, while the increase in tea houses was relatively low, sales remained strong. There's also the Teavana purchase to consider. Why would a massive multinational coffee corporation buy a tea company? Well, probably because their opinion of the beverages is the same as mine, they're suited for different occasions.
As somebody who drinks both coffee and tea, I'll be the first to admit that when I need a quick boost, I'll go for a cup of coffee more frequently than tea. I'll guzzle it down and keep on trucking. While my mood plays a role in determining my drink du jour, if I've got a bit more time and I want to feel more relaxed, I'll typically go with tea, whether at work, or at home. Also, going out to a place like Teavana is a totally different experience than going to a cafe. Now, to clarify, I am aware that Teavana is a retail store not a cafe. I can take the time to peruse their selection, and take some serious time to decide what I want. You can make a whole trip out of it, and then later, in the comfort of your own home, brew your tea whenever you like.
Personally, I've got no problem with either beverage, I might even venture to say that I'm quite in love with both. I think that sometimes people feel forced to pick one or the other, but that's really not the case, it's okay drink both! Coffee and Tea in Harmony!
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