Korea imported a record amount of coffee this year, hitting the US$500 million mark. According to the Korea International Trade Association on Sunday, the nation's coffee imports stood at $508 million for the first ten months of this year, far exceeding the previous record of $307 million for the whole year of 2010.
Korea imported $140 million worth of coffee in 2005, but the figure has skyrocketed in subsequent years, surpassing $200 million in 2007 and $300 million last year. The global market for coffee amounts to $20 billion, while the nation stands as the 11th-largest market with annual per-capita consumption of 350 to 400 cups of coffee.
Behind the steep rise is an increase in the number of coffee shops in tandem with the growing popularity of the drink among young people. Market researcher Nielsen Korea estimates the number of coffee shops here at around 9,400, up 51 percent from three years ago.
As consumers develop more sophisticated tastes for coffee, a shift has been observed in the countries of origin. Imports of Robusta from Vietnam, largely used for instant coffee, accounted for 13.8 percent of total amount last year, down from 34.8 percent in 2008. In contrast, imports of high-end Arabica coffee from Latin America posted huge growth. Korea imported the largest amount of coffee worth $100 million from Brazil this year, followed by Colombia ($91 million), Vietnam ($71 million), Honduras ($65 million) and Peru ($29 million).