Pork flavored coffee is Starbucks' newest China pitch, marking Lunar New Year

ByJessie Yeung and Hassan Tayier, CNN, CNNWire
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Pork flavored coffee is Starbucks' newest China pitch, marking Lunar New Year
Starbucks (SBUX) is betting on that unusual combination with a new drink released in China to mark the Lunar New Year

HONG KONG -- Who doesn't like a little braised pork with their coffee?

Starbucks (SBUX) is betting on that unusual combination with a new drink released in China to mark the Lunar New Year. Dubbed the "Abundant Year Savory Latte," the brand describes it as having an "interesting" flavor.

The drink combines Dongpo Braised Pork Flavor Sauce with espresso and steamed milk, with extra pork sauce and pork breast meat for garnish, according to the Starbucks delivery app.

The drink is priced at 68 yuan ($9.45), according to the app.

Photos of the drink, posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo by the Shanghai Starbucks Reserve Roastery, show a drizzle of dark red sauce atop the latte foam - with a square slice of pork on a skewer resting on the mug rim.

"Eating meat means prosperity in the coming year," the roastery wrote on Weibo on February 5, days before the Lunar New Year began.

It added that the drink brings "traditional New Year customs into coffee," and creates "unexpected savory and sweet flavors." The latte is available at Starbucks Reserve stores across the country.

Lunar New Year is one of the biggest annual holidays in Asia. People across China travel back home during this period to celebrate with their families. Government data shows a total of 474 million trips were made within the mainland during this year's travel season.

And while the foods served at New Year feasts vary by region, braised pork makes a frequent appearance. Named after the ancient poet, painter and statesman Su Dongpo, Dongpo rou is a dish made from braised pork belly, rock sugar, soy sauce, yellow wine and other seasonings.

The result is richly flavored and extremely tender cuts of pork that can easily be pried apart with chopsticks.

China is the biggest branded coffee shop market in the world, according to a report released in December by World Coffee Portal, having overtaken the United States last year.

Starbucks opened 785 outlets in the country in 2023, it said. China has long been one of the most important growth drivers for Starbucks, serving as its second biggest market worldwide and top overseas market.

But it's got stiff competition, including from Luckin Coffee. The Chinese startup is the country's biggest coffee chain with over 13,000 outlets, and offers drinks at a much lower price point than its American competitor.

The Starbucks pork latte has quickly gained traction on Chinese social media, with the topic viewed more than 476,000 times on Weibo by the time of publishing. Some users expressed curiosity, but others were skeptical, pointing to the high price point and questioning why they would drink the latte instead of eating real braised pork.

"For 67 yuan, I could eat a plate of braised pork then go to Luckin and drink two lattes," one Weibo user wrote.

Another user quipped: "I would allow both (pork and coffee) to exist in my stomach at the same time, but not in my mouth at the same time."

Jiupai News, a site affiliated with the state-run Changjiang Daily, reported that the drink had already sold out at one store in Wuhan, with customers saying the flavor was "unique" with a dense, smooth mouthfeel.

Starbucks also released other new flavors across China with a holiday theme in February, according to the Shanghai Reserve Roastery's Weibo account, including a jujube macchiato inspired by new year's rice cakes and an almond tofu macchiato.

Starbucks has released a 'braised pork latte' at its reserve stores across China to mark the Lunar New Year. (Courtesy Starbucks)
Courtesy Starbucks

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