Coffee is still not mainstream in China. However, Shanghai is the exception. International coffee outlets like Starbucks, Bon Appetit, Costa and Illy are just some represented throughout the city. And the numbers are growing.
Not many average Chinese can afford a $4 cup of coffee. Yet, according to CCTV, China’s coffee consumption is growing at 15% compared to 2 % globally. Most of these coffee drinkers are in their mid-20s to mid-40s. To the Chinese, coffee shops are a place to hang out with friends and a place to be seen.
Another thing we observed was they tend to order lattes, cappuccinos and blended coffee. Hardly anyone goes for the strong “virgin” espresso or Americano.
Unlike the US where everyone queues at Starbucks or their favorite local coffee shop for their morning coffee fix, in Shanghai they have coffee in the afternoon and early evening.
The coffee shops in Shanghai were pleasant places to relax with a cup of coffee after a long day of shopping or touring the bustling city. The baristas were always friendly and courteous in all the coffee shops we visited including Starbucks.
We’ve been to many coffee shops in Shanghai. Unfortunately, we were mostly served with Americano and espresso not brewed to suit our taste. We believe the sourness of the Americano and espresso may be due to old roasted beans with expired shelf life. Most of the time our espresso, freshly brewed coffee, Americano and filter coffee, whatever the coffee was named – they all tasted the same! The variation was the cup size.
At first we were like, hey, this freshly brewed coffee tastes like the acidic espresso from the other café. After a few more cups in different places, we came to a conclusion that they are all the same. Oh, we must not fail to mention, there are a few exceptions like the $8 espresso at Waldorf Astoria Shanghai and Peace Hotel.
Here are some of the coffee places we’ve been in Shanghai. They are mostly in hotels and in the neighborhood coffee shops:
Starbucks Shanghai used coffee beans from Yunnan China. Somehow the Americano tasted different from the Americanos in the US, Canada, and Peru.
Of course there are many popular independent coffee shops in Shanghai we failed to visit. These thoughts about coffee in Shanghai are just a representation of some that we have visited including Starbucks.