Anna Solovyeva doesn’t stop with the coffee. Worried that her original list of 10 specialist coffee shops for fanatics was not fanatical enough, she and I decided Shanghai’s coffee coverage needed a sequel in order to be truly fair to all genres and classes of coffee shop. Actually, it was all Anna. I don’t even drink the stuff. But she is so passionate and knowledgeable and downright fanatical about her coffee, how could I say no?
So without further ado, ten more coffee shops for those as passionate about their beans as she is.
1. Café on Air (Middle Huaihai Lu)
The Order: The Perfect Hidden Cup
"Café on Air is a classic hidden coffee shop and perhaps Shanghai’s best coffee shop overall. The natural and electric lights create a warm interior, the design is great and the coffee is beautifully made. It’s also really central, close to the subway, and not that difficult to find, as far as hidden coffee shops (yes, it’s a genre) go. Being tucked away, it’s free of the buzz of Huaihai Lu, and reminds you of all of the hidden history in the city."
"Why bother with nine other coffee shops, you might ask? Café on Air is just too much perfection and sometimes you want something less precious or less gentle or less expensive or less in the middle of everything. Or perhaps it’s just too damned crowded."
2. Single Origin Roasters
The Order: Single Origin Coffee
"Single Origin Roasters started in south Shanghai and have just now come downtown. They are still adjusting – not every cup is perfect, but they are great at the least. True to the name, they do single-origin Ethiopian beans, which they roast themselves, for espresso-based drinks. (There are a variety of other beans for pour-over coffee)."
They are especially welcome because the coffee landscape of the city varies a lot, and while Xuhui has a wealth of great coffee shops, Jing’an does not. Especially at 27 rmb for a latte. The atmosphere is like sitting on a terrace behind glass, comfy and away from Shanghai’s cold winter winds.
3. RAC Coffee
The Order: Newcomer Done Right
"My original rule for making this list was simple: No newcomers. They are too unpredictable. I make an exception for RAC. They are new, but they made me a damn good cup of coffee and served it in a porcelain cup."
"They advertise as a take-away but press on and you’ll find some outdoor seating in an inner courtyard-like space, with creative industry buildings and old Shanghai houses mixing it up. Share a bench at the big table with minor Weibo celebrities and peep on the old gentleman who has stepped out of his apartment for a walk in his pajamas.
The Order: A Laptop Stop
"A whole lot of us coffee shop goers go to a coffee shop to do one thing (not coffee): waste time on a laptop. Downtown Xuhui has several classic laptop spots, but allow me to propose an alternative. Paloma occupies two stories of an old building on Ruijin Er Lu."
"There’s a little dissonance in the price:value ratio, at 35 kuai for a small cup of blended beans. But that price buys quite a lot of atmosphere: dark wooden floors, hanging lamps, photos. The place is spread across three rooms, the outlets are scarce and the place gets packed on weekends, so strategize accordingly.
5. Hey There
The Order: Double Espresso and a Cat
"Hey there, where do you stand on cat cafes? The typical argument against them is that they are all about the cats, and coffee is an afterthought. They also don’t smell that great, and let’s be honest here, are kind of boring, because cats can be kind of boring."
"Hey There is an exception. I’d go even without the cats, and it overlaps with the hidden coffee shop genre – if you’ve been to Gaman, it’s in the lane opposite. The three-story space is done up very well, with half wood and half glass, so you can see the upper levels, and there’s a huge sofa on the ground floor, Rolling Stones LPs on the shelves, and yes, three cute cats.
The coffee is pretty mild. A second shot of espresso would improve the taste – but as far as cat cafes go, Hey There is the champion.
6. Stable Coffee
The Order: Ink and a Latte
"Stable Coffee on Moganshan Lu belongs to a tattoo parlor that’s been here since the beginning of the m50 days, more than a decade ago. It’s a family business: the husband (his painting of two cats meets you at the entrance) does tattoos while the wife makes coffee. She likes coffee, so she makes you a pretty nice cup using a local roast. For 20 kuai."
"There is absolutely no space for anything commercial here, and that’s why I love Stable. Coffee is always made in to-go cups but there are tables inside and you can spend as long as you want here; there are sockets and WiFi, too. There is a punching-bag hanging off the ceiling, and if someone is being inked in the back room you might hear sighs and moans. For me, it blends in the most seamlessly with the community out of all of m50’s coffee shops.
The Order: Espresso and a Rocking Chair
"Nanchang Lu is turning into a coffee street. There are several solid coffee places here, but Onirii stands out for really focusing on the coffee. It’s very white, very stylish, and very full of coffee aromas. They let you choose beans for your espresso or other coffee. If you’re lucky, and there aren't too many customers, you can grab the white rocking chair and rock rock rock yourself into a trance, staring at the maple leaves that have fallen onto the glass roof."
"Coffee wise, it’s mostly close to perfect. Or at least, it’s very good most of the time and I like their beans – very fragrant and rich, with a long aftertaste.
8. Little Bean (Pudong)
The Order: Perfection on the River
"Yes, Pudong has coffee shops. The best is Little Bean, a confident answer to Puxi’s Café on Air that asks the same question: why would anyone ever leave this place for another coffee shop?"
"Little Bean is great for a number of reasons. It has a good vibe, it's laid out very pleasantly, the service is unobtrusively present and efficient, and the location, in a green area on a riverfront, is nice. And of course the coffee. They use beans from all over the world – you could even call some of them rarities. Ethiopian, for example: 45 rmb. In any case, stop here after doing your visa business. It’s a brisk 20-minute walk from the Entry-Exit Bureau on Minsheng Lu, which, by Pudong standards, is practically next door.
9. Three Thirds Coffee (Xuhong Bei Lu)
The Order: A Japanese Pour-Over
"From a humble little place on Tianshan Lu, Three Thirds coffee has expanded quite a bit (four shops now). Also written "3/3," it's the place for Japanese-style pour-over without all the fussing around."
"I like that they have respect for those who want milk in their coffee and have both hot and iced cafe au lait on the menu. They also don't despise sugar and will meticulously study your preferences: sugar or syrup? Whole bag or just part? Taste wise, their cafe au lait is a pleasantly strong drink that leaves no doubt you are having a nice cup of coffee, not caffeinated water. Technically, they are quite skilled, which you can taste in their Brazilian City Roast, which is hard to make without bitterness, but they do. And! All of their beans (roasted by a partner) are for sale.
10. Manner Coffee
The Order: Iced Latte, Wherever You Are
"I was cycling the streets of the downtown uncertain how to end the list. The answer kept popping up in front of me, on practically every street: Manner. Of course, Manner.
Now a veritable empire of hole-in-the-wall places, Manner provides good takeaway coffee at super reasonable price where we need it: close to our office buildings. You can get beans and have them ground. They also give you a 5rmb discount when you bring your own cup - a delightful nature-protecting trend more coffee shops should adopt (and some do: Coffee Is and Step Coffee)."
"My favorite location is the one in the front room of a wonton place on Fengxian Lu. Get a cup of nicely made iced latte and a plate of soupless wontons - an unlikely combination that works so well.