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Most people are aware of China’s vast tea culture, but few are as tuned in to the crop of coffee beans growing in Southwestern China. Even if a trip to the farm lands is not in your future, fret not, Shanghai offers a few quaint coffee houses with very knowledgeable baristas who can introduce you to a local cup of Joe.
The province of Yunnan, famously known as the birthplace of tea, started growing a small amount of coffee around the late 1800’s. But it wasn’t until the 1960’s, at the behest of the United Nations, that the government decided to step up their investment in domestic coffee production. High import taxes and a growing market of java-sipping customers mean that more and more roasters are now sourcing their beans domestically as well.
Nestlé is actually the largest player in China when it comes to market share, domestically sourcing all of its locally-sold Arabica coffee. In 2006, they introduced Yunnan single-origin coffee as their domestically sold NESCAFÉ instant coffee.
Starbucks has also begun sourcing beans from farmers in Baoshan (a region of west Yunnan, just west of Dali Prefecture). Their South of the Clouds blend includes Chinese-grown coffee and can be found in most of their 700+ stores around the country.
If you’re looking for a more specialized brew, don't worry. You don’t have to knock back a cup of instant coffee to taste China’s bounty. There are a couple of great cafes in Shanghai that specialize in coffee roasting and offer both local beans as well as a taste of the city’s hip caffeine culture.
Seesaw Café is run by a trio of self-proclaimed coffee geeks. Offering a refreshing alternative to the typical chain stores, the baristas at Seesaw give you options for both your brew method and your beans. Nestled inside a newly renovated creative workspace, this café offers both fabulous drinks and a good vibe. A great place to check your emails or plan your next adventure.
Café de Volcán is a mere slip of a space, but it’s tucked in at the end of a street full of delicious cafes and bistros. While this coffee house is named after their specialty beans hailing from an award-winning estate in Guatemala, they haven’t missed the opportunity to offer a local sip as well. Be sure to ask for a cup of their Yunnan brew—the beans of which were harvested using a special “honey process”, leading to a smooth, mellow taste.
Bonus: all of Café de Volcán’s coffee is roasted fresh in Shanghai. So, if you have any coffee-loving family or friends back home, be sure to pick up a pack of Yunnan Baoshan beans as a gift.
Café de Volcán
Looking for more options? Check out Shanghai’s Best Hidden Cafes and Bars
If your Shanghai tour wouldn’t be complete without real coffee, we can get you to the best places for your cup of Joe, even those with a Chinese flavor. Our China itineraries are fully-customizable, so if you have particular requirements we can design in the hotels, restaurants, and attractions you want.
Our Yunnan tours can be tailor-made to include a visit to a coffee growing area, where you can see it processed and buy China coffee direct from the source.