By Junko Fujita
TOKYO, April 6 (Reuters) - The state-linked Cool Japan Fund, comprised mostly of taxpayers' money, on Monday said it will invest about 260 million yen ($2.18 million) in a company that plans to operate upmarket green tea cafes in the United States.
The fund will own 49.9 percent of Green Tea World USA Inc which aims to open its first cafe this year in California, Cool Japan Fund Managing Director Masayuki Suzuki said at a news conference.
"Green tea is getting popular in the U.S.," Suzuki said. "Americans drink not only free green tea served at Japanese restaurants but they buy bottled green tea too."
Suzuki said there is potential for growth in tea cafes in the U.S., where Seattle-based coffee shop operator Starbucks Corp is expanding through its 2012 purchase of Teavana Holdings.
The green tea cafes, which are yet to be named, will serve beverages such as "sparkling green tea" and "matcha expresso" for around $3 to $4, Suzuki said.
Green Tea World USA, which is also 50.1 percent owned by a consortium of companies based on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, aims to open 50 outlets over the next decade in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.
The Cool Japan Fund has about 100 billion yen in cash to invest in producers of Japanese culture such as animation, comic books, movies, fashion and food, to help promote them overseas.
In December, the fund invested in a ramen noodle restaurant chain to set up premium outlets in the U.S. and Europe.
($1 = 119.0200 yen) (Editing by Christopher Cushing)