News / Asia

India Coffee Culture Brewing as Tea Holds Ground

A local tea vendor makes coffee at his shop in Mumbai, India. Starbucks will open its first outlet in India by September through a 50-50 joint venture with Tata Global Beverages.
A local tea vendor makes coffee at his shop in Mumbai, India. Starbucks will open its first outlet in India by September through a 50-50 joint venture with Tata Global Beverages.

India is traditionally a tea-drinking country.  But it is now acquiring a taste for coffee, prompting global coffee chains to eye the huge market.  And local entrepreneurs are also hoping to cash in on the country’s tea-drinking habits by opening new outlets to promote the beverage.

It is just 10:30 in the morning, but two cafés located within meters of each other, opposite a college in New Delhi, are doing brisk business.  Their main customers - undergraduate students.

In the past decade, India’s huge young population has quickly embraced a coffee culture as cafés become the hip and convenient place to spend time.

The result - coffee chains have expanded fast and furiously, fanning out from big metros like New Delhi and Mumbai to small towns and highways.

Coffee consumption has doubled in the last 10 years.

It is the promise of this market that is luring chains like American-based Starbucks to enter India. It will open its first outlets here, later this year. In addition to domestic chains, Lavazza and Costa Coffee are already present.

The head of India Coffee Trust, Anil Kumar Bhandari, says Starbucks will come to a country where cafés have become central to the lifestyle of young, middle-class Indians as incomes grow and global trends catch on.

“They should have been here before...  Almost any café chain which has a reasonable quality with its service, ambiance and food, and coffee first, will succeed in this country.  Because look at the young population, [it] is growing and they are all taking to it like ducks to water,” Bhandari said.

But coffee’s growing popularity does not mean that tea, which Indians have consumed for more than 150 years, is moving over.

India is one of the world’s major tea-growing countries and a cup of “chai,” as it is known locally, is hugely popular. Indians consume eight times more tea than coffee.

But outside homes and offices, it is mostly sold by street vendors. And that is what entrepreneurs like Amuleek Singh Bijral hope to change.  The 36-year-old Harvard graduate has opened a tea retail chain in the southern information technology hub, Bangalore, called Chai Point.  These are not upscale cafes, but offer customers more affordable tea in what Bijral calls a clean and hygienic environment.

Instead of cappuccinos, lattés and espressos, they sell lemon tea, iced green tea or masala chai - tea cooked with spices.  It is often served in glasses instead of cups, the way many Indians have it at home.

In less than a year, 14 Chai Points have mushroomed in the city.  They are not competing for image with cafés because, as Bijral points out, “chai” is the common man’s beverage.

“You can not [over] price it.  You can not give it an elitist twist.  We are very clearly not a high-street phenomenon.  We are not a mall phenomenon," Bijral noted. "We do not think that is the mass of India, so we very clearly have defined our sweet spot where we say we are going to target the working Indian and serve people who are in the habit of drinking 'chai' three to four times a day.”

Another entrepreneur has launched a similar tea venture in the northern city, Jaipur. Thirty-year-old Manasi Chadha in Bangalore welcomes these outlets.

“Drinking tea is a kind of in-home kind of thing, out-of-home options like this are new.  Especially since coffee-drinking has boomed in the last couple of years," Chadha said. "This is a little different.”

And as health becomes high on the agenda of many consumers, the tea restaurants hope to quietly stress the advantage of a beverage that is low on caffeine and high on antioxidants.

Business analysts say it is not a case of coffee or tea.  They say that in a country where half the billion-plus population is under 25, both cafés and tea points will find plenty of room to grow.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid