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Where to get coffee
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This week saw the installation of a shiny new coffee machine in the office. Although very welcome, the newest addition to the team (and one which -- like all the best employees -- helps to make the rest of the team just a little bit more productive) sparked some debate as to where in Shanghai we could get hold of the best coffee to fill our new friend with.

In a city with almost as many coffee shops as New York or London, it is surprisingly difficult to find good ground coffee for your own machine.

So here we took to the streets, brought back coffee from both sides of the river, wrote this article at top speed, and then edited it once the caffeine wore off.

The result is a list of the top (and bottom) places to find real coffee to use at home:

In the shops:


As is true with a lot of things, living near a Carrefour makes ground coffee fairly easy to find. And thanks to the current European Food Fair display (I think that Carrefour is the only one who knows about the "European Food Fair") the coffee is actually accessible once you get inside. Carrefour stocks its own brand of coffee, Pure Arabica, which is 33rmb for a 250g packet. Pure Arabica is not bad for the price –- definitely drinkable, although lacking the depth in flavor that some of the less generic brands provide. Carrefour carries examples many brands that are ubiquitous in the European supermarkets -- illy, tchibo, Lavazza -- at higher prices (although still reasonable) than their own brand. All these are available in the "Imported Items" section daily.

City Shop

The one-stop shop for imported items that is City Shop offers more variety than the supermarket, but doesn't contribute anything spectacular. City Shop stocks the same brands as Carrefour, with a couple of extras and the opportunity to buy beans to grind yourself. All brands are costlier than at the ordinary supermarket but there is more to choose from, in both brands and roasts.

Gourmet di Casa

This tiny little shop in the French Concession could potentially become a haven of Italian deli items within walking distance for most of Shanghai's expats. Although it provides ample options in the olive oil and salami areas, Gourmet di Casa fails on coffee. They only stock one brand of coffee, their own, which comes in a 195rmb box and contains three 125g sachets of coffee in three different roasts (superior blend, cuba crystal mountain and decaffeinato).


Situated in deepest, darkest Pudong, Milano Fine Italian Food isn't the easiest coffee shop to find for most Shanghai expats. But if you're (un)lucky enough to live across the river, are heading back from the Maglev, or decide to spend a spring day in Century Park, it is one of the few places in the city to pick up some real Italian coffee. The shop stocks coffee by Giovanni Erbisti, an independent coffee roaster rarely found in Europe, let alone China. And it doesn't end with Italy -- the shop also stocks Haitian coffee and a cherry roast produced in Southern India. The coffee is almost strangely complex when you drink it straight after trying less interesting roasts, but absolutely delicious. Prices aren't too shocking either with 250g bags available for either 78rmb (cherry roast) or 99rmb (Giovanni Erbisti or Haiti Komet) it's no more expensive than Starbucks and is genuinely good coffee. Plus, the gourmet shop is accompanied by a café and restaurant -- a good place to rest your legs after the hike across town.


Like its stores in the US and the UK, Starbucks sells packs of its own ground coffee to take away, and so is one of the easiest places in Shanghai to find it. But while nipping into one of Starbucks' 84 Shanghai stores couldn't really be easier, as with everything Starbucks you will pay for such accessibility (and not necessarily the quality of the product.) They sell their House Blend at 85rmb, and others at prices ranging between 85 and 95rmb. The coffee is remarkably similar to normal Starbucks coffee except that you can choose the strength. To be fair on Starbucks, it is one of the very few places in Shanghai where you can get decaf ground coffee -- although most people who are going to look this hard for coffee may at least want a caffeine hit. Plus they do grind the beans in front of you so you know it's fresh, and it makes your handbag smell nice.


If you don't see the point in paying for caffeine only to plough through it trying to find a shop to re-stock, there are a few online options from which to purchase fresh coffee in Shanghai via the Internet.


This website offers Yunnan coffee delivered to your house or workplace. The coffee is good; quite sweet but aromatic and a lot more interesting than the more widely-available branded coffees. As there are no import charges it's reasonably priced and the delivery charges (free to French Concession and Jingan, 10rmb to other areas in Puxi and 20rmb to Pudong) are not too bad either. There is also no minimum order, so it's not aimed exclusively at businesses or caffeine addicts.


This is the website equivalent of one of those shops where you are greeted when you enter and the assistant asks you every five minutes if there is anything she can help you with. A website for ardent coffee lovers, you have to make an account before you can order and there is a minimum of 200rmb per order. Saying that, they sell every gadget a coffee fan could ever want and an excellent range of coffee (including organic and fair trade varieties which are almost impossible to find elsewhere in Shanghai) and the website is very beautiful.

Editor's Note: We're going with the Yunnan coffee from the fresh724.com website. Its cheap, they deliver, and "we get this coffee imported renowned coffee artisans in Yunnan province" sounds impressive when you offer it to guests.

(smartshanghai.com March 27, 2008)

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