Luckin Coffee Vs. Starbucks: Which Wins?

If you plan to visit China, you may have to decide between Luckin Coffee vs. Starbucks. This article covers the two coffee giants in the Chinese market.

Luckin Coffee vs. Starbucks
Luckin Coffee vs. Starbucks

While Starbucks has become a global giant in the coffee industry, a significant competitor has been dogging their steps in the Chinese market for the past several years. Luckin Coffee stores first started opening in Beijing and Shanghai in 2018, and they’ve continued expanding to meet Starbucks’ market presence in China.

The battle for supremacy certainly isn’t over yet, so which coffee shop chain offers the better proposition, products, and experience? Read on to learn more about this major Starbucks competitor in China and discover which experience is best for you if you’re in the country and looking for a cup of coffee.

What Is Luckin Coffee? 

While Starbucks is a familiar logo to most coffee lovers, not many people outside of China are likely aware of Luckin Coffee, mainly because the brand hasn’t had the opportunity to expand out of the country yet. Founded in 2017, with their first stores opening in 2018, they’ve expanded to meet Starbucks’ market presence in China, with over 4,000 stores in-country by 2020. 

The newcomer company, Luckin Coffee, has suffered more recently as scandals have racked the brand: accusations of inflated valuations, along with fraud and other issues, have put a damper on the Chinese company’s efforts to challenge Starbucks. But the growing brand is fighting to get back on track, and they’re maintaining a solid presence.

What Luckin Coffee And Starbucks Have In Common

Starbucks coffee vs. other coffee
Starbucks and Luckin Coffee both offer similar products.

As mentioned before, both Luckin and Starbucks are cafe/coffee shop chains, with Luckin based in China and Starbucks an increasingly global operation. As a result, they both offer some similar products: various coffee drinks, tea, and food items tailored to the tastes of the Chinese public. But where both brands offer a similar concept, there are still some substantial differences.

Luckin Coffee Vs. Starbucks: The Differences

While Starbucks does offer region-specific drinks in every country it operates in, one of the key features of the Starbucks M.O. is its roster of base beverages. Luckin Coffee takes a different approach, leaning all-in on Chinese tastes and preferences with experimental and offbeat combinations like americanos laced with sparkling water and flavors like mandarin orange and elderflower or iced tea beverages topped with highly trendy whipped, sweetened cream cheese.

There are also crucial differences in how the two companies position themselves, with Starbucks focusing on high-quality, high-status options in counter to Luckin Coffee’s more down-to-earth, humble offerings and prices.

What’s Better About Luckin Coffee?

Luckin coffee app
Luckin Coffee is much about the app experience.

If you’re in China and looking for a coffee fix, Luckin Coffee has some key features that set it apart from Starbucks. Apart from the menu–entirely influenced by Chinese tastes and constantly adapted and tweaked to customer feedback–Luckin Coffee is as much about the app experience as the products you buy.

You don’t go into the shop to place your order; instead, you order online or through the company app and get it delivered. Luckin Coffee is also very fond of discounts and coupons, making it a budget-friendly choice.

What’s Better About Starbucks?

Starbucks’ operation in China is–just like its operations elsewhere–all about the quality and the easy comfort of the European coffee shop experience. Classic coffee drinks, straightforward, American and European-influenced eats, and ambience sets Starbucks apart from Luckin Coffee. Starbucks focuses on the traditional and high-value aspects of the coffee shop experience, compared to convenience and trends.

Who Should Get Luckin Coffee?

Anyone looking for a Chinese-influenced coffee adventure, complete with the thrill of ordering in a completely new format and the convenience of delivery, should choose Luckin Coffee. While the flavor combinations may not be something you’re used to, they’re definitely worth exploring, and you might discover a beloved new taste that you might not have otherwise tried.

Who Should Get Starbucks Coffee?

If you want to order your Starbucks “Usual” while you’re in China, you’re likely to be able to do that. You can also branch out and sample something the coffee giant has developed specifically for the Chinese market–whether food or drink. For the comfort of the familiar, and if you’re not looking to save money above all else, Starbucks in China is the better selection.


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  • Savannah McClelland

    Savannah is a coffee lover who took her appreciation of the brew to the next level starting in college, becoming a barista before combining her love of writing with her affection for a good brew. She has written for several publications including and TopTenz, and also works as a ghostwriter. Find Savannah on LinkedIn.