Wading in a sea of sugary bubble tea drinks in China, I could not contain my surprise and excitement when I happened upon real, nuanced good coffee at a new cafe, Day By Coffee (大白奶咖) on Zhaoshang Lu, in Shekou. Having lived in Portland, Oregon in the US for decades, I am spoiled by excellent coffee. Each time I come back to Shekou to visit my father, I go into caffeine withdrawal, frustrated by the lack of truly good coffee. Finally on this trip, my quest for a good cup of joe succeeded. This stylish triangular space without seating, paired with a cleanly designed coffee window is for serious java addicts.
The menu has only 15 items, ranging from a RMB5 espresso shot to a RMB25 Bailey’s latte. Each cup of coffee is handcrafted with 100% Arabica coffee beans, sourced from Yunnan, on a fine Italian professional machine. My favorite item is not on the menu: an Americano (at a mere RMB10!) with a shot of milk by special request. I have been drinking it almost daily from before they officially opened on January 13 and now I am known to the young baristas as ‘the Americano with milk jiejie.’ Smooth, silky and full-bodied from the first sip, their coffee finishes with a subtle sweetness to the last drop. Some days I vary my drink with oat milk, again thrilled by their uncompromised choice with Oatly, Barista Edition.
Located in the busiest section of Zhaoshang Lu, Day By Coffee nestles next to milk tea shops, small specialty restaurants and bakeries. This has become the area of Shekou with the busiest delivery traffic, signaling how trendy this street has become for teens and young adults who are addicted to variations of milk tea drinks. As an American cardiologist, I look on with concern, worried that this craze for sweet, caffeine-laden drinks will become the Chinese version of sugary American soda, and the cause of the emerging Chinese obesity epidemic.
The triangular space created with an angled wall in which a service window is cut, with clean lines, subdued lighting and a simple green leafy plant arrangement gives one the illusion that this could be an atelier in Stockholm, Brooklyn or San Francisco. There is no seating space, however, a curved ledge on the wall opposite to the service window just barely allows you to lazily lean on. A concept completely opposing to that of Starbucks, the message from the shop owner seems to say, “Come here for serious coffee, but then leave and go about your busy day.” The young, handsome shop owner, masked with pure clean eyes, and tattoos peeking over his black work gloves, is soft spoken and pensive.
His tag line is “Good coffee needs not be expensive”, although I feel this undersells the fact that this is simply good coffee, cheap or not. He cooly discounts my enthusiasm to explore how he and his shop could become an internet sensation, citing that wanghong is not a sustainable business model. He hopes he will draw sustaining daily coffee enthusiasts and that his coffee will become part of their daily routine. Try as he may, Day By Coffee is ranked #2 for coffee in Shekou on Dianping during its second week of opening. I feel reassured by the sophistication of the locals’ glowing customer reviews.
Nearest metro: Shuiwan Exit C, 3 minutes walk
Who’s going: java enthusiasts, young white collars
Good for: Americanos, flat whites, Bailey’s lattes, matcha lattes
Price: RMB17 on average
See listing for Day By Coffee.
[All images courtesy of Day By Coffee]