Tea drinking China lured by smell of coffee

A country best known for its tea is being taught the wonders of coffee by a Leeds lass.

Jo Robinson, a barista from Costa Coffee in Leeds, is helping to train the company's baristas in China.

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Costa, which recently won the coveted annual Best UK Coffee Shop Chain award from Allegra Strategies, has plans for substantial growth in both Beijing and Shanghai and is using 39-year-old Jo's expertise to help satisfy the enthusiasm of the world's fastest-growing economy for high-quality, hand made coffee.

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Jo, a Costa trainer at the Leeds store, was first asked by the company to travel to China in 2007 to share her knowledge and skills.

She has just returned from a second trip to China to further develop the course which begins with Chinese baristas being given hands-on training in preparing all types of coffees, from the espresso which forms the basis of all Costa's coffees, to cappuccinos and lattes.

Jo said: "It's been a fascinating learning experience for me and it's been rewarding to see coffee culture catching on in China.

"The Chinese are so passionate about their work and take great pains with attention to detail, doing everything they can to develop their skills.

"It's been exciting coming back to Leeds and seeing some of our training manuals translated into Chinese so the next generation can take up the baton."

Jo's colleague Leeds barista "maestro", 29-year-old Alex Watson, could be among the next tranche of staff to fly out to China to carry out further training.

He is already fluent in Mandarin after a three-year stint as a teacher in Shanghai during which he married wife Yang Yan – after meeting her in a coffee store.

The couple returned to the UK in 2009 when Alex took up a post at Costa to help pay for further study.

Alex said: "When I heard about Jo's work in the Far East, I let my manager know I'd be interested. "

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