Chinese Milk Tea Is Growing More Popular in the “Coffee Republic” of South Korea

South Korea, known as the “coffee republic,” has seen a shift in the trend of tea as the most popular caffeinated drink among Korean millennials and Gen-Zers. Milk tea brands from Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, such as Gong Cha, have significantly fueled the popularity of the South Korean bubble tea market. With Lee Jong-suk as its ambassador, Gong Cha’s popularity has soared, and the company now boasts 240 shops in South Korea. In 2017, Korean investors acquired around 70% of the company’s shares.

The shift from coffee to tea is partly due to the emphasis younger generations place on healthy living, with the beverage becoming an essential health and beauty product. Tea brands have formulated healthier tea product lines, with demand growing for natural and unprocessed teas. Sales of floral and fruit teas surged by 22% over a two-week period, while sales from traditional Korean teas like ginger and schisandra grew by 78%.

This shift from coffee dominance to tea obsession is not unexpected, as tea is part of Korean traditional culture and coffee is synonymous with socializing, as cafés serve as important places for people to get together with friends. Chinese milk tea brands have helped drive this trend.

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