Beijing Culture: Beijing Coffee
Shopping for your Coffee: Options for coffee drinkers in Beijing
China is renowned as a land of tea drinkers, so what are the options for those visitors who need a frothy cappuccino to pep up their day?
Beijing clearly isn't Paris or Rome - you can forget about watching life go by in a smoky backstreet caf off the Champs Elysee, or sipping an al fresco espresso under a parasol in some cobbled piazza.
Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that foreign guests have to forego all expectations of character and charm, not to mention quality, when it comes to imbibing their daily shot of caffeine.
With 50-odd outlets in Beijing alone, and expanding in China quicker than you cay say double mocha coconut frappuccino, Starbucks is always going to win the battle in terms of location and convenience.
However, for those prepared to look a little longer, and travel a little further for their coffee, there are certainly alternatives in Beijing which outperform Starbucks in every department.
For those who enjoy feeding mind and body in one sitting, Beijing's Bookworm has always been a little Bohemian oasis. A couple of years back the old Bookworm was replaced with a bigger, altogether more stylish restaurant-come-lending library just off Sanlitun Nan Jie, close to Yashow Market and the Worker's Stadium.
Far more light and airy than its predecessor, the main dining room boasts a glass roof and book-lined walls, and a ceiling decorated with attractive drapes. The restaurant offers an impressive range of European dishes (40 60 RMB), plus snacks, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Patrons can choose from one of three separate eating rooms, and there is also a "kiddie's corner" which can give parents a much-needed breather. The terrace is great for al fresco dining in the summer.
In addition to the food menu, the Bookworm also boasts a comprehensive drinks list. Coffees are reasonably priced - cappuccinos and lattes are a decent size and weigh in at around 20 RMB each. The well stocked bar offers a range of spirits, beers, cocktails and soft drinks (15-30 RMB). Free WiFi is available throughout, and in addition to the lending library, the Bookworm always stocks a range of Beijing's latest English language magazines.
Another great hangout for Beijing bibliophiles is Le Petit Gourmand, which tends to be quieter than The Bookworm, except at lunchtimes. With an excellent and extensive French and North African menu, tall mugs of frothy cappuccino, and even a fireplace, Le Petit Gourmand is a great place to put your feet up and relax with a paperback or two. As in The Bookworm the waiting staff speak some English, and the menu and wine list is in Chinese and English.
Le Petit Gourmand has free WiFi internet, and also stocks the latest Beijing magazines. In the summer the enclosed balcony makes a great place for a few cocktails or frosty Qingdao beers. The lending library apparently has over 9,000 titles, and books can be borrowed with an inexpensive subscription.
Complete with relaxed waterfront location, comfortable furniture, a great range of coffees (20 - 30 RMB), Bohemian clientele and free wireless internet connection, the Water Nymph Cafe is a mecca for those who value their coffee-drinking environment as much as their coffee. Those settling in for the long haul will appreciate the great pasta and sandwich selection available (25 - 35 RMB), and the excellent spaghetti deserves a special mention.
Water Nymph Cafe (shǔi s shg kāhi)
4 West Houhai, Xicheng District
Tel: 8403 1687 / Hours: 2pm - 2am
Nearest subway: Jishuitan (Line 2)
The numerous cafes and coffee shops encircling the waterfront at Houhai, and along the more recently established Nanluoguxiang nearby, provide the perfect hangout, with cheap drinks, live music, wireless internet and mildly cerebral ambience as standard. The old-meets-new formula of the comfortably stylish Passby Bar, tastefully integrated within the local hutong, is typical of many of Nanluoguxiang's watering holes.
Started by a dedicated backpacker-turned-entrepreneur, this wonderful hutong hideaway attracts locals, backpackers and foreign regulars who sample the extensive wine list while tucking in to some excellent and reasonably-priced Italian dishes. With an outdoor courtyard covered by trellised vines, great coffee, free WiFi, and a range of English books and magazines, the Passby Bar is a great place to while away the hours whatever the season.
Tel: 8403 8004 / Hours: 9.30am 2am
Owned by a Taiwanese who graduated from the Beijing Film Academy, there are four S.I.T outlets in Beijing, all offering good coffee, free WiFi access, and a library of second hand books. The food is typical caf fare - toasted sandwiches, a cooked breakfast, pasta and tasty pizzas. There are also non-smoking sections which can be great if you're looking to give your lungs a break from the air pollution and Chinese cigarette smoke.
Near Lido Hotel, Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District
Tel: 5135 8108 / Hours: 8am - midnight
Xiangshan (Fragrant Mountain)
50 Xiangshan Maimai Jie, Haidian District
Tel: 8259 8296 / Hours: 9.30am - 12.30am
Bldg 12, 1 Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Lu, Wudaokou, Haidian District
Tel: 8286 7026 / Hours 9.30am - 12.30am
7 Weigongcun Lu, south gate of Beijing Institute of Technology, Haidian District
Tel: 6894 6825 / Hours: 9.30am - 12.30am
Related Beijing Cafe Resources
View more images of China by Daniel Allen