Coffee heads are turning toward the city
Café on Air. An inconspicuous shop with excellent brews, Café on Air is steps off the busy Huaihai Road shopping street in Shanghai. Beyond the standards — like Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos — the café also offers a selection of sweet, delicious confectionery.
Ani. A drip coffee specialist deep in the lanes of the French Concession in Shanghai, Ani refuses to engage with the espresso world. The house special and must-try is an iced coffee made with rakia (a fruit-based spirit that originates from the Balkans).
Mod Shanghai style
RAC Coffee. A security guards’ office turned café, RAC serves a range of coffees and French-style bites. Try the sardine galettes (savory sardine pancakes) or salted caramel crêpes with a cortado (espresso with a little warm milk).
Onirii. Situated on a street lined with coffee shops, Onirii stands out with its pristine white interiors, natural lighting from a glass roof and cozy and compact seating area. The flat white here is not to be missed.
Stable Coffee. Stable is a staple for visitors to one of the Shanghai’s art districts on Moganshan Road. Never mind that it’s the side business of a tattoo parlor — the artist owners make aromatic but slightly pricey cups of locally roasted coffees.
Simply Better. “Viral” is the only way to describe this establishment. Simply Better, which is prominent for its cool, industrial design, has gained thousands of fans for its Dirty Coffee, a latte showered in chocolate shavings.
. . .
We speak with Anna Solovyeva, a part-time student and full-time coffee explorer, who has visited over 300 coffee shops in Shanghai.
Describe the local coffee scene in a few words.
Anna: From the proliferation of brand franchises, there’s been an obvious shift in attention — in the past two, three years — to independent, third wave cafés.
What drives you to continue exploring?
Anna: It’s my way of getting to know the city and the communities that form around these establishments.
Be honest, how many of them are actually good?
Anna: About 30% offer decent coffee, but only 10% are truly high-quality.
How is the scene changing?
Anna: It’s diversifying. There’s a growing number of coffee shops that are operating as part art gallery, part bookshop, part cat café and part workshop.
This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of Smile magazine.