International coffee chains are realizing the potential of the Chinese market, and are expanding rapidly in the country. But in Shanghai, coffee has been popular since the founding of the People’s Republic.
At Deda cafe and restaurant, a large group of elderly Chinese regulars line up outside every morning to carry on the coffee-drinking tradition of Shanghai’s bourgeoisie past, reports China Daily.
Before the cultural revolution of 1966, coffee was popular among China’s middle class. Known as “Paris of the East,” Shanghai attracted adventurers and businessmen from the United States, United Kingdom, and France, among others, and they brought with them their coffee drinking habits.
In 1978, when China began a series of economic reforms, a wave of western-style cafes and restaurants flooded Shanghai. It wasn’t until 1999 that Starbucks opened its first mainland China location in Beijing.
With the growing number of young coffee drinkers in China, international coffee chains are expanding at a greater rate than ever. In fact, Starbucks plans to double its number of shops in China with 3,000 total stores by 2019.
Despite the invasion of international coffee Chains, Deda’s regulars are there every morning.
“It’s hard to tell whether it is the cafe that sustains the tradition, or our regulars that keep us going strong,” said Huang Jianying, one of Deda’s managers.
Deda, which began in 1897 as a German restaurant, has survived due to the sense of community it provides. Many of the elderly regulars show up for the small cup of Americano, which is said to be made from Italian coffee beans grown in Yunnan, and stay to talk to their friends.
“The first two-thirds of the coffee are for enjoying. The rest qualifies us to stay,” said one regular.
Like Deda cafe, Starbucks has embraced the use of Yunnan’s beans at its Chinese stores, and also introduced community Starbucks shops in Beijing.
But as long as the regulars remain, so too will Deda.
image credit: phil shirley