Muschamp Rd

Coffee in Shanghai

August 14th, 2018
Sweet Little Rain

I’ve lived in Shanghai for over three years now and in that time I’ve drank a lot of coffee. I hardly ever drank coffee before I did my Master’s degree. But during my time as a graduate student I got into the habit of both studying and taking study breaks in cafes and having a mocha. Now I’m well known in certain cafes in Shanghai for always ordering a mocha.

Update: Although you think the Internet is bad in China what with the Great Firewall, government surveillance, apps that track you, and devices with backdoors, you’d like to think you can sit in a cafe, enjoy a coffee, and read a webpage like this one, but alas I discovered a new reason to complain. At a cafe I frequented regularly for years in Shanghai, the WiFi was inserting Coinhive mining scripts into webpages like mine. Something I only discovered while debugging this very website and watching every script that was being loaded as I wanted it to load faster.

So enjoy your coffee, but be careful what websites you surf, which WiFi networks you use, and which apps you install on your devices. Why not just read a book or practice your Chinese?

The reason I’ve had to visit so many cafes and drink so many fancy coffees is the CFA® Program. I’m currently waiting for the results of the Level 3 exam. Did I mention I’m looking for a new job?

Syphon Coffee from Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai

While living in Shanghai when not studying or working I spent a lot of time at the gym. One of the serious gym goers at my old old old gym asked me to follow them on Instagram. Now I got talked into joining Instagram back in the day, but I had long since deleted the app from my phone, none the less I logged into the website and followed Kristine. Eventually I added the app to my phone again and even posted a gym selfie. Since I’m not an IFBB Pro and don’t even consider myself a bodybuilder or even a powerlifter I started taking photos of the coffees I drank while studying and posting them to Instagram for the #instafame.

I was already being strongly encouraged to make regular postings to WeChat while living in China as it is one of the only social networks the Chinese government has not blocked access to via the Great Firewall. The most popular images on social media are of course selfies. After selfies, pictures of food aka #foodporn will get the most ‘likes’. The only other rivals for social media dominance would be famous landscapes/landmarks and of course pets. So while studying day after day, I took many photos of mochas and posted them to Instagram. In fact before my latest round of injuries I had adopted a ratio of two food pictures to one gym selfie to amuse my followers and practice using gratuitous hashtags.

This is the second in a planned series of four blog posts that I’m planning to write about the businesses I frequented while living in Shanghai. I already finished the beer post though I think I will have to find time to visit the Daga before I leave Shanghai. I also have been recounting my story of my visit last Tuesday to the world’s largest Starbucks which just so happens to be in Shanghai. I also have a list of three more cafes I want to try before I publish this post. I will have to go through my social media and laptop to find the best and and most unique coffees I’ve tried in Shanghai as occasionally I do not order a mocha.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai
Syphon Coffee Pour

Off the top of my head social media updates that were popular came from “Mega Starbucks” as I dubbed the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai, Mellower Coffee, and a pink latte I tried in Hong Kong, generally more unusual drinks that I photographed or videoed proved the most popular.

I also collected a lot of links on coffee in China and cafes in Shanghai. In addition to there being many many Starbucks in Shanghai there are homegrown and other imported chains. There are also some very unique cafes some of which have shut down, in fact it seems like every cafe I’ve been to on Fuzhou Lu is gone. Fuzhou Lu is famous for books and stationary but rent must keep going up as all the little quirky cafes have gone out of business. While studying or not studying I traveled sometimes a great distance to try cafes I’d read about in SmartShanghai or Timeout. The third website you’ll likely encounter if you live in or research restaurants in Shanghai is That’s Shanghai.

Besides Starbucks the cafes I frequented the most would be Wagas and Ocean Grounds. I used to stop at cafes along Fuzhou Lu on my way home from work to caffeinate for a few more hours of studying but all the cafes I used to visit including One More Cup are now closed. So if you’re Shanghaiese or visiting Shanghai you won’t be able to go there, nor will you be able to go to 221B Baker Street. If you like themed cafes a number are still open including “The Friends” themed cafe which I also tried. I generally worked my way through all the recommendations with the last four being the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, %Arabica, Peet’s and S.Engine.

Other cafes I tried that often get mentioned as among the best in Shanghai include Sumerian, Cafe de Volcan, and the Press. I definitely posted pictures of these cups of coffee to social media. But I’ve been in Shanghai so long and drank so many cups of coffee I may turn up a few more obscure ones which may or may not be mentioned in various best cafes in Shanghai articles. I quite like Seesaw but the one closest to my apartment closed so I made stopping there after a hard afternoons shopping on Huaihai Lu part of my routine. Now I sometimes go to Mokka Bros as it has more food options, but Seesaw is better for people watching.

Shanghai is considered the most fashionable city in mainland China so people come to Shanghai to see and be seen. So when not shopping, clubbing, or dinning in expensive restaurants you have to visit a fashionable and photogenic cafe. Hopefully this article and accompanying pictures will inspire the odd person to make a pilgrimage down the mean streets of Huaihai Lu or to the bowels of one of Shanghai’s many shopping malls or department stores to grab an expensive cup of coffee.

Now I know what people really care about is pictures so I included plenty below which I carefully took and posted to social media, but I also spent a lot of time collecting links so here are few more:


Mocha at the Beast Cafe Xintiandi Shanghai China #mocha #coffee #thatsshanghai

A post shared by Andrew McKay (@muskiemckay) on


Cafe Mocha from Dimattina Coffee. #thatsshanghai #coffee #mocha

A post shared by Andrew McKay (@muskiemckay) on


One More Cup Fuzhou Lu Shanghai #mocha #coffee #thatsshanghai

A post shared by Andrew McKay (@muskiemckay) on


#mocha and a #cookie at Meng Cafe in #Shanghai

A post shared by Andrew McKay (@muskiemckay) on

I have even more photos from before I put Instagram back on my phone. Some of them may have been on Flickr already, definitely many of them appeared before as WeChat Moments but these photos are older and less well remembered let alone documented. I did the best I could and although it might hurt my search engine domination, I decided to upload the photos to Flickr.

Costa Coffee
Happy Mocha
Gloria Jean's Coffee
Kommune coffee
Jamaica Blue Mocha
221B Baker Street Mocha
Friendly Mocha

Alas, I think I’m done uploading old pictures to Flickr over WiFi and a VPN in a cafe. If the photos are not already on Instagram I think for the burger and ramen posts I’ll just upload them to my own website or just include fewer photos as this post is now monstrous. Both Flickr and Instagram are blocked and slow and problematic to access from inside China. I did a better job of organizing my beer photos obviously but I wasn’t lying I’ve drank a lot of coffee while living, working, and studying in Shanghai.

One website deserves a special shout out, Sugared and Spiced has diligently been documenting and photographing cafes and restaurants in Shanghai for a long time. Her day job is apparently pastry chef so she also focusses on cakes and desserts. She singled out four cafes for a  these are:

If you’re a coffee elitist and are deeply offended I didn’t mention your new favourite micro cafe that just opened in the basement of a derelict building in Pudong you can no longer leave a comment below. This post gives WordPress difficulties and may have attacted too many spammers.

There are just too many cafes in Shanghai to try them all especially because I was usually trying to quickly grab a cup then get back to studying hence regular trips to Wagas and Starbucks but I did travel quite far sometimes to try obscure cafes such as Cambio and Hongdae Bear which even Jimmy at OceanGrounds had never heard of but was once in SmartShanghai. Articles are regularly written touting the latest greatest hippest spots in Shanghai, often money changes hands and a few months later the cycle repeats with a new cast of characters, I really did drink a lot of coffee and take a lot of photographs while living in Shanghai, I saw a lot of places come and go as documented here.

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