China / Cover Story

No coffee mourning over expensive drinks

By Gao Changxin and Wang Jingshu (China Daily) Updated: 2012-02-09 10:37
Prices on par with US fail to deter Chinese customers who want a taste of 'the good life', report Gao Changxin in Shanghai and Wang Jingshu in New York.

Su Nan stood inside a Starbucks on Shanghai's bustling Huaihai Road and complained about the US coffee chain's recent price hike. "It's already expensive. How am I going to live?"

But the 26-year-old still joined a long line for a latte.

The world's biggest coffee chain raised the price of some products on Jan 31, due to what it said were rising operating costs. That brought Su's 16-ounce (about half a liter) "grande" cup to 30 yuan ($4.75) from 28 yuan.

Starbucks was already an expensive choice for regular Chinese customers such as Su, who earns about 7,000 yuan a month. One cup of cappuccino a day for a year would cost her 10,950 yuan - about one-eighth of her income.

Still, Su is better off than many others. China's per capita GDP last year was $5,184. It was $48,147 in the US.

Despite a huge gap in personal income, Starbucks has priced its products almost the same in China as in the US, if not higher, since it entered the Chinese market in 1999.

No coffee mourning over expensive drinks 

A customer is absorbed in thought at Starbucks in Sanlitun, Beijing, on Tuesday. Zou Hong / China Daily

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