It's tea time at Starbucks

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In the future, the Starbucks baristar will be asking whether you would prefer tea or coffee. [CFP]

In the future, the Starbucks baristar will be asking whether you would prefer tea or coffee. [CFP]

Think of Starbucks and the chances are you will be thinking of coffee. That's probably because it's the largest coffeehouse chain in the world, with more than 16,000 outlets in 49 countries and regions, more than 360 of them on the Chinese mainland.

But be prepared for change. In the future, the assistant will be asking whether you would prefer tea or coffee.

The Seattle-based business on Wednesday officially launched its first batch of Chinese tea products in China, the traditional home of tea, in a new attempt to boost business.

"In addition to our passion in brewing high quality and great tasting coffee, Starbucks is committed to constantly innovating and introducing new locally relevant products to give customers more reasons to come to our outlets," said Shantel Wong, vice-president for Starbucks Greater China.

At the Starbucks LOFT cafe in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, the air is infused with the mixed aroma of coffee and tea. Waiters and waitresses wearing green T-shirts serve their customers with three distinct Chinese tea selections: White Mu Dan tea, Bi Luo Chun tea and Oriental Beauty Oolong tea, names familiar to traditional tea shops in China.

The Chinese tea selections are sold at 20 yuan per cup alongside Starbucks' existing international teas such as Chai, English Breakfast and Earl Grey.

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