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Brand name coffee doesn't taste any better than that of small shops: study

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By Yoon Ja-young

Coffee sold at major coffee franchises doesn't necessarily taste any better than that of small independent coffee shops or coffee sold in bulk, a study shows.

A research team in the Department of Food Science at Gyeongsang National University in South Gyeongsang Province analyzed the taste and aroma characteristics of 10 coffee samples, using devices including an electronic tongue and an electronic nose. The electronic tongue examined the sourness, umami (referring to savory flavor or scent), bitterness, saltiness and sweetness, while the electronic nose analyzed the volatile compounds present.

The 10 samples of black coffee came from three large franchise coffee shops and four non-franchise shops, as well as three other shops that supply coffee in bulk. The research team did not disclose the names of the brands studied.

While the saltiness sensor of the electronic tongue evaluated as high the coffee from the franchise shops, the other four sensors gave higher points to the coffee from the small, independent shops. The electronic nose also detected more volatile compounds that constitute aroma in the coffee from the small, independent shops.

"The coffee from franchise shops, which many Korean consumers prefer, isn't particularly better in terms of taste or aroma compared to the coffee from non-franchise shops or bulk coffee stores. Consumers' preferences for franchise coffee thus seems to be influenced more by brand image and brand preference, rather than by taste or aroma," said Professor Shin Eui-cheol who led the research.

There have been repeated blind coffee tastings both in Korea and overseas, which revealed that highly priced coffee doesn't necessarily guarantee a better taste.

According to a 2019 survey of 1,031 consumers by the Korea Consumer Agency, Korean consumers put top priority on the accessibility of the coffee shop, with 49 percent saying that easy access is the reason they choose a certain coffee shop. Those who prioritized taste stood at 24.7 percent, while 8.2 percent said that they chose a certain shop because they liked the atmosphere there.

When asked how much they think is an appropriate price for a one cup of black coffee, the average stood at 3,055 won ($2.61).

Korea was the world's sixth largest coffee importer as of 2018, with each Korean adult consuming on average 353 cups of coffee a year.

The study was published by the Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition and introduced by the Korea Food Forum.
Yoon Ja-young yjy@koreatimes.co.kr


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