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Drinking coffee with Chinese beans

COFFEE buffs can look forward to sipping Starbucks' new blend containing beans from southwest China's Yunnan Province during celebrations to mark the chain's 10th anniversary on the Chinese mainland.

The world's biggest coffee chain announced the launch of Starbucks South of the Clouds Blend, containing coffee beans from Yunnan, which is the company's first offering using coffee grown by farmers in China. The name has been chosen to honor its birthplace of Yunnan, which means "south of the clouds" in Chinese.

Combining arabica beans from Latin America, Asia Pacific and Yunnan's Baoshan region, the new blend creates a unique flavor of bright acidity and a spicy herbal taste. It is available in Starbucks outlets in the mainland, Malaysia and Singapore till February 19.

"We have collaborated with the Yunnan provincial government and coffee farmers over the past three years," said Li Jing, a spokeswoman of Starbucks China. "Through the cooperation, we improved the quality standard of Yunnan coffee beans and hope to promote it in international markets in the future."

With rising coffee consumption, going more local has been one of the ways for Starbucks to enhance and boost the coffee culture in a country that is better known for its wide varieties of tea and tea drinking.

The Chinese market is becoming more important for the chain which has seen sales decline in its United States home market partly due to the financial crisis and the Seattle-based chain said China has the potential to be its biggest market outside the US. China is now the fourth-biggest overseas market for Starbucks after Canada, Japan and United Kingdom.

Since opening its first store in the mainland in 1999 in Beijing, Starbucks has opened more than 350 stores in 26 cities. At the end of last year, the coffee chain had about 700 stores in the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, compared to 13,000 stores worldwide.


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