Brewing Bliss: Exploring the Emotional Value in a Cup of Temple Coffee
BY Rita BaoNov 22, 2023

market intelligence solution

In the public's perception, temples, emblematic of traditional culture, have conventionally served as sanctuaries for believers and a favored destination for the older generation of consumers. However, in recent years, they have become the newfound preference of the younger demographic. According to Foodaily, since February of this year, the ticket orders for temple-related scenic areas have surged by an impressive 310% compared to the same period last year, with post-90s and post-00s accounting for nearly 50% of visitors. In the recent Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays, tourism maintained its popularity. For example, Wutai Mountain welcomed 230,000 visitors, showcasing a staggering year-on-year increase of 677%. On social media platforms, posts and searches related to temples is continuously rising, reflecting the heightened interest of young individuals in temple-related topics.

Among the emerging trends of temple-related consumption, temple coffee has unquestionably taken the lead, attracting hordes of young consumers. Actually, the coffee and temple combination dates back to 2012 when Starbucks entered Hangzhou Lingyin Temple, but it failed to gain popularity. The turning point came when the “CiBei Coffee” at Hangzhou Yongfu Temple sparked a sensation, after which national temples have ventured into the coffee business. Examples include "Jiafu Coffee" at Beijing Tanzhe Temple, "La Fonte" at Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple, and "Seed Coffee" at Hangzhou Lingyin Temple, as well as the newly opened Tims coffee chain at Nantong West Temple.

Why has temple coffee become such a sensation in 2023? In addition to the  upswing in temple tourism that has fueled the demand for temple coffee, what's even more significant is the novelty, immersive atmosphere, and emotional solace that temple coffee provides.

Zen-Inspired Naming

Taking the highly popular "CiBei Coffee" at Hangzhou Yongfu Temple as an example, the brand name "CiBei" is a homophone for the Chinese term "慈悲," which means "compassion" or "mercy." The choice of this name carries the same essence of benevolence and kindness. Similarly, the names of the coffee products in the cafe follow the same style, with the Americano named "Difan" (cleanse worries), Latte named "Ting Xue" (stop snow), and Mocha named "Huanxi" (joy). Similarly, at the "Money God Coffee" at Hangzhou Caishen Temple, Americano is "Zhao Cai Jin Bao" (attract wealth and treasure), Latte is "Caishen Coffee"(God of wealth), and the White Coffee is "Caiyuan Guangjin" (wealth flows in abundance). Each coffee's name serves as a Zen phrase, resonating with the wishes of consumers. The collision of Western coffee with Eastern Zen culture creates a compelling contrast, capturing the attention of young consumers.

Chinese Factors Harmonizing with Temples

Cafes at temples embrace a Chinese-inspired design aesthetic, featuring picturesque scenes, creating an atmosphere for consumers to temporarily escape from the societal hustle and bustle. Chinese elements are also reflected in the design of coffee cups. For instance, the cups of “CiBei Coffee” incorporate colorful illustrations inspired by Buddhist elements, creating an eye-catching visual appeal. At the "Seed Coffee" at Hangzhou Lingyin Temple, cups are designed with traditional Chinese water cloud patterns, straws are adorned with encouraging phrases like "May all your wishes come true" and "Peace and joy”, and the coffee art displays the characters "Xi" (喜, meaning joy) and "Chan" (禅, representing Zen). All these cultural elements enhance the distinctive and culturally rich atmosphere for consumers when they drink coffee.

Emotional Business-the Core of Temple Coffee

The key to the upsurge of temple coffee lies in the the emotional engagement with consumers. Temple coffee capture the "emotion" as a keyword, utilizing it to connect with the sentiments of the audience. More specifically, the rise of temple coffee is the fruit of insights into consumer sentiments. During the 2023 Spring Festival, "CiBei Coffee" unveiled a limited-edition "Jiefu Yingxi Cup", which, like scratching a lottery ticket. allowed customers to unveil blessings like "Getting rich every day" and "Become wealthy overnight." This innovative engagement caters to young people's expectations of good fortune, integrating emotional resonance into the coffee experience.

Over the past three years, amidst the stresses of work and life, the demand for emotional relief, stress release, and respite from fatigue has continuously grown. Temples, by offering both a serene refuge and a cultural haven, fulfill this crucial role in meeting the evolving emotional needs of the younger demographic. 

Indeed, starting this year, the roles of temples have expanded beyond tradition to embrace a more diverse array of functionalities. Infused with a youthful vibrancy, these modern temple settings are offering multi-faceted satisfaction to the younger demographic, gradually emerging as captivating hubs for urban youth. For example, consecrated artefact and cultural-creative products of temples align more closely with the preferences of young consumers, resonating both aesthetically and philosophically with their evolving tastes and sensibilities. Incense ash bracelets from the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing, and the amulets from Hangzhou Faxi Temple, are highly sought-after by young consumers.

Besides, vegetarian meals at temples are gaining widespread popularity. For instance, the vegetarian noodles at Shanghai's Longhua Temple have become a must-try on the Dianping (a popular platform for food reviews and recommendations). Moreover, there is a rising popularity of temple-themed homestays and meditation-themed hotels. According to Tujia Homestay, the number of temple-themed homestays on the platform has surged by 2.1 times compared to the same period last year and has tripled compared to the figures of 2019.

In conclusion, the emerging temple concept products and services address the contemporary emotional needs of young people. Their popularity underscores the pivotal role of emotional value in brand marketing. This is also evident in other explosively popular products or services over the past years, such as camping and tea gatherings, all of which offer consumers ways to alleviate anxiety and experience relaxation. For brands, delving into consumers' subtle emotions and fostering emotional resonance have become focal points in both product design and marketing.

 Disclaimer: All images used in the article are from the Internet.

Rita Bao
ChemLinked Regulatory Analyst
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