10 years ago in Shanghai, the only coffee shops that you could find were large chains such as Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, or Costa Coffee. Closely following the birth of artisanal coffee culture in America, there has been a recent boom in coffee culture in Shanghai as well.
On my recent trip back to Shanghai, I trekked all across “town” in search of some of the best cafés in the city. After way too many double espresso drinks, syphon coffee, and cold brew, here is the verdict and my top 7 destinations to check out.
1. Sumerian Coffee
Opened for just over 4 years, Sumerian Coffee definitely leads the pack in building an artisanal coffee culture in Shanghai. Best known for their creative lattes, Sumerian has won award after award for best café in the city.
Be sure to try their Muscovado butterscotch latte (photographed above) which is finished with sea salt. It’s definitely more of a dessert than a cup of coffee, but in the best way possible.
2. Seesaw Coffee
Although it is now considered a chain in Shanghai, Seesaw Coffee provides an impressive selection of roasts (all roasted by the café) as well as a variety of brew methods including pour over, cold brew, and syphon coffee.
What I loved most about Seesaw is that the baristas take the time to ask you what kind of flavour profiles you look for in a coffee, and how the different brew methods will enhance and alter the flavour of a roast.
Located in the heart of the French concession, FUMI was an unexpected but absolutely delightful find. I was already sold by the café when I saw the wall of moka pots lining one side of the café, and came to fall in love with their beautifully crafted coffee.
Serving up extremely creative drinks such as a coconut water cold brew, nitro coffee, and matcha mochas, FUMI is the perfect nook to rest at after an afternoon of shopping in the French concession.
4. Café de Volcán
Another leader in the coffee culture in Shanghai, Café del Volcán is a German owned café with a passion for roasting fantastic coffee. You can enjoy Volcan’s beans at their tiny café on Yong Kang Road, their soon to be open coffee roasting facility, or by ordering them online through China’s Taobao.com or via their own website.
The Café is staffed with knowledgable baristas and friendly people who are more than happy to chat with you all afternoon about coffee. I was blown away not only by the quality of the cappuccino I had, but also the love of coffee that Volcán has instilled in its employees and return customers.
5. Griffin Coffee
Located just next door to Café del Volcán, I couldn’t resist but to pin the two cafés head to head, which also meant drinking two cups of double espresso drinks in… less than an hour. Griffin’s decor is more hipster chic, with a fixed gear bike hanging on the wall as well as other cycling accessories.
What definitely stood out at Griffin was the flat rate for its drinks, 26 RMB (4 USD) for an added milk drink such as a cappuccino or flat white, and 18 (2.75 USD) for a standard double espresso or americano yielding unpretentious, phenomenal coffee.
In Shanghai, Farine is most popularly known for its authentic French pastries and breads. Little do most people know, Farine actually roasts its own coffee beans and takes as much pride in their coffee beverages as their croissants and baguettes.
Serving up the classics such as cortados, cappuccinos, and lattes, Farine is the perfect place for a first date.
7. Jamaica Blue
Yes, I know, Jamaica Blue is a fairly established chain coffee shop in China. However, sometimes when you are in a pinch and need a coffee fix, chain coffee shops are the only thing available. In desperate times such as this, I always turn to Jamaica Blue coffee.
The cappuccinos are consistent, desserts are delicious, and the wifi actually works. There are days when that’s all you need for an afternoon escape from work.
In my 3 weeks back in Shanghai, I was absolutely blown away by the dramatic changes in coffee culture that has risen in the last 4 years. It has been my New Year’s resolution to learn more about coffee and it has been so intriguing to discovery how something so simple as a cup of coffee can be so unbelievably complex.
It brings me so much joy that more and more people are turning away from large franchises that produce mediocre coffee to appreciate the craft that is coffee.