Instant coffee and fresh coffee beans from Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Neil Overy—Getty Images
By Jack Linshi
July 15, 2014

For fresh coffee-loving Westerners — a love so deep it’s worth a legal war — it may come as a shock that the other half of the world prefers what Americans can barely fathom: instant coffee. (And no, coffee pods don’t count.)

Preferences for fresh coffee and instant coffee largely dominate the Western and Eastern Hemispheres, respectively, according to a new report by Euromonitor International. The split is closely aligned to the coffee-tea preference split, and not coincidentally: regions like the Asia-Pacific where tea is the dominant hot drink are emerging coffee markets, where the affordable, do-it-yourself nature of instant coffee is only just beginning to induct tea-drinkers into the coffee-drinking lifestyle. Moreover, instant coffee pre-mixed with cream and sugar appeal to Asian palates more than fresh, bitter coffee.

Here’s a map showing which countries prefer instant or fresh coffee, roughly split by an imaginary line dividing the West and the East:

Euromonitor International

And for comparison, here’s a map showing which countries prefer coffee or tea, with roughly the same split:

There are, however, some exceptions to the rule of tea drinkers preferring instant coffee (and likewise, coffee drinkers preferring fresh coffee). In tea-dominant India, fresh coffee has seen an explosion of popularity among young people with the rise of specialist coffee shop culture. The coffee powder is readily available in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for half of instant coffee’s global retail volume. In coffee-dominant Mexico, instant coffee is positioned as a “utilitarian beverage,” marketed as a cheaper and more convenient drink than fresh coffee.

In fact, instant coffee isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Several of the top growth markets for coffee, such as China, prefer instant coffee. Even in regions like the UK, which prefers instant coffee, the rising popularity of fresh coffee — the choice throughout most of Western Europe — hasn’t yet supplanted instant coffee, which has remained relevant by a diverse array of products and strong brand positioning.

Nescafé and Jacobs are the most popular instant coffee brands worldwide.

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