Coffee is a drug, and we're fiends for it if you couldn't tell from our last café guide. Lucky for us, Shanghai's coffee scene is steaming, with new shops popping up faster than subway lines. Here's a round-up of fresh cafés worth losing some sleep over.
1. Café Paloma
Walking up the stairs to Café Paloma, I could already hear the V60 coffee angels singing. The space was airy and beautiful and surprisingly empty on a rare sunny day in Shanghai. There were two baristas on hand, as well as two large rooms with plenty of outlets and seating.
Coffee drinks are priced from RMB22-35, and non-coffee beverages include hot chocolate and a rose latte (RMB 35-38). As for munchies, there are cakes and sandwiches ranging from RMB22-56, which were not available during our visit.The matcha latte was just the right sweetness and struck the perfect balance between rich whole milk and intense matcha.
As for the aforementioned angels? They’re real, and the proof was in the Yirgacheffe pour over (RMB42), one of the cleanest brews we’ve had in Shanghai so far. Attention to detail is something we rarely see in the Shanghai coffee scene, even from the likes of Seesaw. The brew was light and floral, and you could clearly taste notes of stone fruit. It was served with a cube of coffee ice as a refreshing finisher.
The café playlist includes Amy Winehouse and smooth jazz, which overrides the outside bustle emanating through the open windows. We will definitely be back.
2. Beautiful Concept
We’ve been to Beautiful Concept on two very different but equally wonderful occasions. The first was on a post-apocalyptic rainy day, where the cozy and intimate atmosphere of the café was the perfect indoor hide-out. The second occasion was during the first 19-degree celsius day of spring, where all the beautiful man-bunned denizens of Shanghai came out of hiding to congregate on Yongkang Lu.
The shop itself is intimate and cozy, exuding vibes of lumberjack hipster chic as denoted by the deer taxidermy and exposed bricks. Painstakingly rusted stools and wooden benches provide seating for the bums of well-dressed locals and buzzed Europeans.
Nevertheless, these guys make a solid cappuccino, and we definitely support the girl power exuded by two female baristas that run the shop. On top of being skilled latte artists, the service they offer is friendly and personable.
As with any intent on heading to Yongkang, Beautiful Concept offers a great place to sit, have a chat, and be amazed as to how many French people live in Shanghai.
3. TASTE Shop
Disclaimer: Our first trip to TASTE Shop was far from pleasurable. The hours, clearly written on the door of the café, read 12.30-8.30pm. We arrived at 12:30 and to find closed doors. Maybe it was just a slow day, so we waited another fifteen minutes… Still not open. 1.15 pm came and went, and the shop was still closed. Feeling salty from a caffeine deficit and wasting four kuai on the ditie, we left vowing to never return. But luckily for us we did, albeit this time during the afternoon.
Ignore the weird name, TASTE Shop is an aesthetic concept store filled with pretty things you will never need, like copper spoons and paper weights. The coffee shop is situated upstairs and is a lovely minimal space with power outlets at nearly every table, complemented by fast (and free) wifi.
It’s obvious that this is not a grab a cup to-go before work type of transaction, afterall this place doesn't even open before noon. The space is set up so that every kuai of your RMB99 Panama pour-over can be savored. Our cappuccino (RMB38) was better than the majority of what we’ve sipped in Shanghai, although the microfoam could have been steamed slightly better.
Coffee here might be expensive, but you're paying for the aesthetics here. A fedora and suspender-wearing barista. A lull of smooth jazz in the background. Even the resident cat dresses up for the occasion in a dapper red bow-tie.
Here he is judging us for taking a picture of him.
Overall, TASTE Shop makes an occasion out of coffee drinking, and it's a great meeting place for a friendly rendez-vous or a long journal session. Bonus points for their bathroom though, which includes the most lovely scented hand soap and a fancy Japanese toilet, the kind with a heated seat that offers a bum spray. Zing!
4. Coffee Belt
Just a few minutes from Shaanxi Nan Lu metro stop is the newly opened Coffee Belt, a great addition to the IAPM vicinity. The space is the perfect size, large enough to have a meeting with some friends and small enough to be a laptop social recluse.
We tried the lunch deal, which is RMB48 for a bagel or a panini, a side salad, and an Americano. We went with the 'full veg' on a sesame bagel, although there are plenty of other sandwich options. We were more impressed by the bagel than the coffee, which was crispy and chewy but skimped on the avocado. Walk over to nearby Spread the Bagel if you want a carbo load worth the calories.
The flat white (RMB32) was pretty to look at but nothing extraordinary. The Americano (RMB25) is what anyone who orders an Americano wants: a strong jolt of caffeine and heart palpitations.
Coffee Belt might not have flair, but it covers all of the essential café bases. The food is good, the coffee is standard, and the space is bright and well-organized with lots of tables and free WiFi. Whether you need a quick to-go or lunch with your laptop, this place is a reliable option.