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IT'S HOT

Could coffee dethrone tea as India’s unofficial national beverage?

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By Maria Thomas
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

India may be a nation of tea-drinkers, but coffee lovers are catching up.

The country is among the world’s fastest-growing markets for packaged coffee, new research by Mintel shows, expanding at a compounded annual rate of over 15% between 2012 and 2016. It ranks third after Indonesia and Turkey.

Asian countries dominate this list as new types of cold-coffee drinks, coffee mixes, and instant coffees are convincing tea drinkers to try something different, Mintel says.

“Asia has far more growth potential as traditionally tea drinking consumers are converted slowly but surely into coffee drinkers,” Jonny Forsyth, Mintel’s global drinks analyst, said in a statement.

In India, tea has a long (and often dark) history. Popularised during British rule, it’s now the unofficial national beverage, with over 83% of urban households consuming tea, according to the National Sample Survey Office. In contrast, even though India is the world’s sixth-largest coffee producer, only one in 12 households actually drink it. And up to 80% of this is in the southern coffee-producing states, Mintel says. Even there, tea remains the primary choice.

But things began changing slowly with the “second wave” of coffee culture brought about by the spread of cafes. Urban Indians began sipping cold coffees and cappuccinos, and were introduced to flavoured, ready-to-drink varieties in supermarkets. In 2016, the packaged coffee market was valued at around Rs4,140 crore, up 71% from Rs2,420 crore in 2012.

What’s more, the “third wave” has already made it to India’s big cities, with entrepreneurs launching roastery-cafes in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru that offer fresh beans and gourmet preparations (and latte art, of course).

The tea-coffee competition in India is getting as hot as a cuppa.