Food and Drinks

Seven cafes in Shanghai that aren’t Starbucks with great coffee, food and environments

Whether you want a simple Americano or a specialist brew with exotic beans, a quiet place to work or your own cinema, a comfy underground space or soaring city views, this list has you covered

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 8:33am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 8:33am

Cafes are on every other street in Shanghai. Here are seven of my favourite alternatives to Starbucks depending on what I want out of the visit: a quick caffeine boost, a quiet place to work, a place for specialist coffee or a stunning Instagram photo.

1. Manner Coffee

Grab your morning cup of Joe at Manner Coffee, which serves great coffee at cheap prices.

An Americano is only 15 yuan (US$2.20) and an espresso is 10 yuan. There is also a discount for people who bring their own tumblers.

Manner Coffee has expanded to several branches around town since opening in 2016 but I still prefer its original shop. It only occupies a window space on Nan Yang Lu so would be easy to walk past without noticing it if not for the impressive queues that form in the morning and during lunch hours.

205 Nan Yang Lu, Jing’an Qu

2. Extra Time Cafe & Lounge

Stop by Extra Time in the afternoon, where a lunch set – including a salad, a main dish, coffee of your choice and ice-cream – costs only 68 yuan.

Not only is the underground cafe quiet and comfortable, the lunch set also entitles customers to 30 minutes at its luxurious private cinema, where you can watch one of 2,000 movies.

It has 10 booths of various sizes for different parties which are available throughout the day and charge by the hour, starting at 70 yuan.

888 Changde Lu

3. Cafe Dan

Another great place for lunch is Cafe Dan, a hidden gem in the touristy arts and crafts area of Tianzifang run by a Japanese owner.

In the twisting alleys and narrow lanes, look out for a sign on the brick wall that says Cafe Dan and a staircase will lead you to this cosy cafe.

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In addition to Japanese dishes, the cafe serves a wide range of different coffee, with beans so exotic and the brewing method so complicated that some go up to hundreds of yuan for a single cup.

For something simple (and inexpensive), go for the house blend and pick your preferred coffee roast.

Tianzifang, No 41 (back), 248 Taikang Lu, near Sinan Lu

4. T12: Lab

You will not find cappuccinos or lattes on the menu at T12: Lab. Here, instead, you can get the creamiest and smoothest flat white (35 yuan) in town, as well as Gibraltars – a drink similar to cappuccino but served in a Libbey Gibraltar rocks glass instead – and piccolos. All use ristretto rather than espresso as a base.

Another unique feature is a sign that says “keep quiet” that accompanies a sound meter displaying the noise level in the cafe. There are also noise-cancelling headphones available for those needing absolute silence. According to a poster on the wall, it is an attempt for customers to develop their spatial awareness, but it also creates a tranquil environment for those who need a space to think.

5 Wuxing Rd, Xuhui Qu

5. Fumi Coffee

Fumi Coffee, which is decorated with a wall of dangling moka pots, is most well-known for its flat white, but there are also interesting choices such as red velvet latte, nitro coffee and coconut cold brew.

The cafe also allows you to pick from five types of coffee beans from countries including Costa Rica and Columbia. If you are not sure, try the tasting combo set (55 yuan) which includes an espresso, a piccolo latte and drip coffee.

215 Fumin Road, near Julu Road

6. Rooftop with a View

Although it’s not actually on the rooftop, this cafe is located on the seventh floor of a commercial building and its large outdoor seating area, complete with lounge chairs and a massive screen for events, overlooks the entire Jing’an Temple. Inside the decor has a Nutcracker theme and is adorned with hundreds of toy soldiers and a fake fireplace.

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Their delicious crepe cakes (58 to 62 yuan) are heavy and not too sweet. Never try their tea (48 to 90 yuan), which is overpriced and diluted.

7/F, JA Gohigh Building, 2 Huashan Rd, Jing’an Qu

7. S. Engine Coffee

S. Engine’s two-storey flagship store in Xintiandi is impossible to miss. Brightly lit and spacious with different types of seats, plenty of power plugs and high-speed internet, the cafe is ideal for those who need a place to meet or work all day. They even open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

331 Huangpi South Road, Xintiandi