PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 11:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 12:20pm

Is Starbucks overcharging? Chinese coffee drinkers ask


Amy Li began her journalism career as a crime news reporter in Queens, New York, in 2004. She joined Reuters in Beijing in 2008 as a multimedia editor. Amy taught journalism at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu before joining SCMP in Hong Kong in 2012. She is now an online news editor for Amy can be reached at, or follow her on Twitter @AmyLiSCMP

Beijing’s Starbucks lovers are wondering why they are paying 22 yuan (HK$27.5) for a cup of regular coffee that only sells for 11 yuan in San Francisco.

In a heated online discussion on China’s twitter-like service Weibo, coffee drinkers are asking why the same cup of coffee costs so much less in the United States.

While the tariff imposed on foreign companies in China might contribute to the higher price, some also believe the coffee chain charges more simply to satisfy the vanity of Chinese buyers.

Drinking Starbucks coffee is generally seen as sophisticated in China, where traditional tea is more popular and affordable. With Starbucks’ success in recent years, more young people have become loyal Starbucks drinkers. Young people also love to share their Starbucks photos online.

On Weibo, netizens criticise those who buy Starbucks coffee for the sake of its brand.

“After a cup of Starbucks, do you suddenly turn into a better person?” said a Weibo user.

“I drink my one-yuan soy milk everyday and I feel proud of it,” said another user.

It’s not just Starbucks whose pricing practices are under attack. People are also asking why Haagen-Dazs ice cream sold in China is three times more expensive than the US.

Neither Starbucks nor Haagen-Dazs has responded to the controversy.

My advice for grumpy Chinese coffee drinkers? If you don’t like the price then don’t buy it.



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