Amidst a worldwide recession that has affected nearly all sectors of Korea's economy, only the coffee market is holding steady. According to the Maeil Business Newspaper on Wednesday, sales of tea and soft drinks, which had soared for several years, dropped by 10 to 20 percent last year, but sales of coffee beverages were up 20 percent to W400 billion (US$1=W1,378).
Starbucks, for one, increased the number of outlets in Korea from 257 to 272 last year and recorded W170 billion in sales. And while its sales are declining in most other countries, in Korea they increased by W36 billion.
The growth has led to increased import of coffee beans. According to the Korea Customs Service, coffee bean imports hovered around 80,000 tons since they started in 2004 with 82,605 tons, but last year they soared above 100,000 tons for the first time. Experts say the reason is a shift in consumer taste from instant coffee to various freshly brewed varieties like espresso, mocha and latte, the daily said.