Cafe culture is booming in Hong Kong, with imports of coffee beans reaching nearly 5,800 tonnes last year - enough to make 635 million cups of coffee and an increase of almost 50 per cent from 2000. Roasted beans accounted for 2,400 tonnes, up from 1,000 tonnes in 2000, according to the Census and Statistics Department. The chairman of the Hong Kong Coffee Association, Lam Pok-chung, said cafe culture had become popular after Starbucks reached the city in 2000 and small upstairs cafes started to catch on. 'In the past, people usually spent their tea time with their friends in cha chaan teng [traditional Chinese eateries]. Cafes used to mean very formal western restaurants, which belonged to the expatriates and businessmen. 'But upstairs cafes and Starbucks have changed people's impressions in recent years. Now, not only white-collar workers but also students like going to cafes. They have become a chic place to be among the younger generation,' Mr Lam said. Starbucks has opened 84 outlets in seven years, while upstairs cafes have multiplied in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. Mr Lam estimates there are nearly 70 coffee shops in Dundas Street, Mongkok, alone. Thomas Hahn, general manager of Starbucks Hong Kong, said: 'We have seen a rise in the acceptance of coffee among discerning adults across the city, which is heartening given Hong Kong's reputation as a tea-drinking city. 'Customers [use our outlets] as a 'third place' away from home and office where they can read, study, work or simply connect with family, friends and colleagues.' Pacific Coffee, another big chain, opened in Hong Kong in 1992. In 2005 it set a goal of opening eight to 10 outlets a year. It now operates more than 50 cafes and sells about 20,000 cups a day. Even McDonald's has joined the frenzy and is opening more of its McCafe stores. It opened its first one in Central in 1993 and now has 38. Mr Lam said roasted coffee imports were mainly supplied to luxury hotels and cafe chains, while small cafes and cha chaan teng usually used cheaper coffee roasted locally. The increase in roasted coffee imports showed people were demanding higher quality coffee, he said. 'Hong Kong people are demanding. In the past, they only knew coffee in general,' he said. 'Then they started to drink latte and cappuccino. Now, they expect something even more special, like mint coffee or chestnut coffee. Cafes have to launch new flavours from time to time, while fast food chains, like Cafe De Coral, have to provide freshly brewed coffee.'