Getting tired of drinking the same old thing at Shanghai’s chain coffee shops? It may be time to expand your coffee-drinking horizons and seek out one of the city’s many unique independently-owned cafes.
Over recent years, independent coffee shops have sprung up across the city, bringing fresh flavor to the city’s already booming coffee market.
Many of these smaller shops differ from their larger peers both in terms of decor and service as well as their drink selections.
One such shop, Uncle No Name Espresso, is tucked away down Fengxian Road, a side street just off Nanjing Road W.
Although the shop itself is quite small, a well designed layout means that one rarely feels crowded, at least outside of peak hours.
Comfortable wooden tables and chairs as well as a careful choice of paintings on the walls create a homelike atmosphere that is perfect for get-togethers with friends or just relaxing on one’s own.
Another popular spot just down the street on Fengxian Road is MQ Coffee. This L-shaped cafe features an office-style area where laptop-totting customers can get some work done while still being in a relaxing environment. Seating on an outdoor terrace is also available.
Meanwhile, Essence Cafe, which actually operators four locations around Shanghai, claims to be the first coffee shop in China to use specialty beans — that is, beans grown in special microclimates which also score an 80 or above on the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 100-point rating scale — in all of its coffee drinks.
Cafe Essence’s house blend includes three different types of specialty beans for its regular drinks. Customers can also take their pick from over 10 different varieties of specialty beans for an added cost. Each variety of bean is described in terms of flavor and other properties.
Of course, beans aren’t the only thing separating the city’s coffee shops. There’s more than one way to make a cup of coffee, many of which might be unknown to even the most avid coffee drinkers.
Seesaw Coffee is equipped with a wide selection of coffee makers, including chambered vacuum coffee makers. Such devices have been used to make coffee for nearly two centuries.
The shop also offers a variety of specialty beans which customers can choose from.
An open counter design also enables patrons to interact with baristas and observe various brewing processes up close.
In most cases, Shanghai’s independent coffee shops are eager to educate their customers as a way to promote coffee-drinking culture in general.
What’s more, nearly all of these stores sell beans under their own labels and also offer free grinding services as well as advice on picking beans. Many, like Seesaw and MQ Coffee for instance, also arrange courses on coffee tasting, grinding, roasting as well as latte art.