An amazing cup of tea is easy to find in Beijing. To find a satisfying cup of coffee would be next to none if you were dining in local restaurants. That was our problem while in Beijing for three nights.
Beijing is a sprawling city. There’s the old, the new and the eclectic side of the city. No matter where you are in the city center there are crowds of people and crazy traffic. And tons of places to eat but the question for a coffee-deprived traveler was “where are the coffee shops?”
There is Starbucks and Costa…
Drinking ‘western’ coffee is expensive in Beijing. It is a luxurious indulgence for the average worker. To drink coffee is to be like the ‘lao wai’– the foreigners! Of course you can find coffee shops near tourist attractions like The Great Wall and The Forbidden City. A sign with words like ‘espresso’ or ‘fresh coffee’ would not make a coffee lover want to try them when they’ve been burnt a few times – paying hefty amounts for a bad cup of espresso of not so ‘fresh’ coffee.
What do you do then? Go to Starbucks? Actually Starbucks China is not the same as Starbucks in other parts of the world. We heard their coffee is from Yunnan, the region that has been producing high quality tea for centuries. Let’s just say when we had Starbucks in Peru, Bali or New Zealand our Americano tasted the same. In China, Starbucks’ Americano however was another subject matter, which we won’t touch here.
On the day of our departure from Beijing to Shanghai we found it – the coffee we desired at SPR Coffee located in the Beijing South Railway Station’s departure hall. Cost for one cup was 28 Yuan, roughly $4.50. The average wage for Chinese in China is 28,752 Yuan (about $4755). That made my cup of coffee about a quarter of a week’s wage.
The average Beijinger can’t drink gourmet coffee. The many young people from wealthy families are consumers and are setting the new trend – the coffee drinking culture. The cup of Joe will not be for the Average Joe or Plain Jane of Beijing.