Coffee beats kimchi as Koreans’ favorite

January 16, 2015
coffee

The penchant for coffee is particularly apparent in Seoul, where many buildings have coffee shops on the first floor. (Korea Times file)

By Rachel Lee

Coffee has become so popular in Korea that many people now prefer a cup rather than having rice or kimchi.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, coffee is the most frequently consumed food item, at 12.2 times a week.

Kimchi, traditional fermented vegetables, was second (11.9 times), followed by sugar (9.7) and multigrain rice (9.7).

Thanks to coffee’s rising popularity, 65,000 tons of coffee was produced in the country in 2013, an increase of about 63 percent from 2009. Of the total production, instant coffee accounted for about 39.2 percent in 2013, a 54 percent increase over the past five years.

“The instant coffee market has started to shrink, with a variety of takeaway flavors and instant brew coffee becoming increasingly popular,” the ministry spokesperson said.

The penchant for coffee is particularly apparent in Seoul, where many buildings have coffee shops on the first floor.

Coffee chains have grown sharply since Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee entered Korea in 1999, triggering a coffee chain boom in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

Other multinational brands such as The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf from California and Pascucci from Italy, jumped on the bandwagon as did local conglomerates such as Lotte Group and CJ Group.

In 2012, Korea ranked 30th in the world in terms of coffee consumption, according to the National Coffee Association of the United States.

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