Shenzhen Coffee guide: Why you coffee-lovers aren't lost in the country of tea
"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons" - T.S. Eliot
When I first visited China nearly three years ago (also the year this blog started so woo, go us!), coffee just wasn't really a popular thing. Sure, you could find a Starbucks on a semi regular basis, but the coffee just didn't taste great and was usually burnt. It was as though it was being made by people who just didn't like coffee (which, to be fair to them, it probably was). Add to that a lack coffee culture and the realisation that most drinkers are satisfied with the nescafe 3-in-1 sachets and it was a struggle for a bit there. Thankfully, all of that is changing. China's Yunnan province now produces more coffee than Kenya and Tanzania, while the population now drinks more cups of Joe than Australia. Sure, a lot of this is down to just the huge population, but an influx of foreigners to cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai has helped drive a coffee industry that wasn't popular just a few years ago.
So, whether you drink it religiously or just enjoy the odd cuppa, here is a list of where you can find the best coffee in Shenzhen.
SeeSaw Coffee (Bao'an Centre)
At first glance, Seesaw has everything you could want in a cafe. Good coffee? Check. An aesthetic surrounding absolutely ready for your instagram feed? Check. Wi-Fi? Check. Oh, and their coffee beans are among the best you can find in China. Honestly, I recently wasn't expecting much from Seesaw. Most of their coffee beans are from the aforementioned Yunnan province - a province that, while producing tonnes of coffee, has until recently only really produced coffee for Nescafe. That, however, is changing. Yunnan coffee producers have turned to higher-quality beans in recent years and local brands like SeeSaw are there to show you just what the region can do. Not in Shenzhen? Not to worry, SeeSaw exist all over the country, so there's no excuse to skip out on them on your next visit!
Dafen Oil Painting Village Coffee (Dafen)
One of Shenzhen's best kept secrets, Dafen is a hive of activity and one that every visitor should experience. Buried deep in the area's alleyways are hundreds of painters, joiners, and street vendors painting and selling all kinds of canvases at a price that you wouldn't find in stores. But, if you're coming for the painters, then stay for the coffee! Doubling up as an exhibition space that puts local artists in the limelight on a regular basis (plus not to mention the amazing works of art that they just have on display on any given day), this small space may be one of Shenzhen's most instagrammable cafe's and makes for the perfect breather after some time wandering the alleys.
3D Coffice (Luohu)
What 3D Coffice lacks in amazing coffee it makes up for by being one of the most typically Shenzhen cafe's around - techy. No, there aren't robots making your coffee (imagine... I'd definitely try to steal one), but there are full-body scanners that will let you create mini sculptures of yourself or small keychains with your image inside them and I mean what screams Shenzhen if not needlessly techy spaces? It may not make the best latte in the city, but it's space is uniquely Shenzhen, making it one of the most intriguing cafe's around. I mean, how else is this city supposed to be the Silicon Valley of China?
Kong Coffee (Shixia)
Kong Coffee, on the 38th floor of what looks like an empty office building is simply surreal. With zero signs telling passers-by of its existence (not to mention a confused doorman who claimed to have never heard of it when we asked whether we were in the right building), you'd be forgiven for thinking that it would be as empty as the offices that surround it. Instead, we walked in to find a hive of activity as young locals filled the space enjoying their drinks while enjoying the Shenzhen skyline visible through Kong Coffee's floor-to-ceiling windows.
Not much of a coffee-lover? Don't worry, Kong Coffee has you covered. A wide selection of tea's and desserts, (plus a nice cocktail menu). will be sure to tempt you to stay until sunset. I mean, where else can you enjoy the city's skyscrapers in the distance without being pushed away by throngs of tourists?! Just be sure to try and choose a clear day to make the most of their window seats!
Old Heaven Books (OCT-Loft)
Located in the hipster haven that is Shenzhen's OCT-Loft, Old Heaven Books could quite easily exist in any city in the world and still have a place on a list like this. A small book and record store from the front, Old Heaven Books stocks pretty much everything you could expect in a store this size book-wise in Chinese plus a shelving unit full of classic literature in English for when your kindle just doesn't quite make the cut. Plus, I mean when you can walk the three steps and wander straight into their attached cafe to get a start on that new book, what could go wrong? Good coffee, comfy chairs, sofa's, and an outside seating area for when the sun is shining, what is there to complain about?