Cafés and coffee culture are a booming business in Shanghai and it seems that new ones are popping up on almost every street corner in the city. A number of local, independently operated coffee houses make up some of our favorite places for meeting friends, hanging out after picking up the kids from school, or dropping by for a quick spot of lunch and a chat with your friends. Here are our top picks for your daily dose of caffeine.
Cafe on Air
Café on Air is a quiet retreat from the busy Huaihai Lu. The Muji-esque minimal design creates a zen atmosphere perfect for after school catch-ups with friends, business meetings, or an afternoon of journaling. Plus, there are plenty of charging outlets conveniently placed near the tables making it a most suitable working space.
Enough about the ambience, though. This place serves some serious coffee. Clear evidence are the bags of beans from LA-based coffee company, Blue Bottle, sitting on the counter – a most exciting rare sight for any coffee lover in Shanghai.
Drinks are priced at RMB25 for an Americano, RMB28 for a mocha and RMB38 for single origin drip. If you’re not a coffee drinker, there are always delectable pies warmed to order, coconut water and tea infusions.
> Cafe on Air, Open daily, 10am-6.30pm. (6333 2195)
Paras is a friendly, but trendy, café set in a loft-style space decorated with kaleidoscopic
tiles. They serve very good coffee and a selection of brunch-appropriate dishes like smoked salmon eggs Benedict (RMB55), best suited for weekend catchups and casual lunches.
More importantly, serious coffee lovers will be glad to find excellent single-origin brews dripped via Chemex (RMB38) and dark, unctuous espresso shots pulled by well-trained baristas. A pink LED sign reading “Hello Good Day” decorates a wall behind the bar; it’s slightly gimmicky and unnecessary – because any day consisting of quality brew is a good day in our books.
> Paras, Open Mon-Fri, 8.30am-8.30pm; weekends and holidays 10.30am-8.30pm. (6433 9796)
Like a lot of new restaurants popping up in Shanghai, DNA Café might be more bark than bite, but aesthetically, the setting is show-stopping. Spacious and open, the gorgeous space lets in an abundance of natural light to sun feed the flowers that populate throughout, making it a perfect place to while away an afternoon with a good book.
Coffee is ever so slightly pricey (RMB40 for a cappuccino), but if you're coming to DNA Café, you're probably not just here for the caffeine. In addition to being a café, DNA also hopes to establish itself as an exhibition hall, pop-up design space and bookshop... now, if only they could get their hands on some actual books.
All this is acceptable if you're looking for a beautiful space to meet, hang out, read or study, DNA's strength lies in its beautiful environment.
> DNA Cafe, Open daily, 11am-7pm. (131 6618 3888)
Nestled in a tiny spot on Wuyuan Lu, Jarajam is a chic, family-run café owned by a two Shanghainese sisters and designed by one of their husbands, the owner of interior design firm Nei Space. Despite its size, the place has a lot to offer and sells a range of coffees, homebrewed tea concoctions, fresh juices and daily housemade baked goods.
They've a good selection of homebrewed tea concoctions, which seems to be something of a passion project for co-owner and floor manager Lita, who keeps her collection of imported herbs and ingredients pride of place in the café. For eats, there's a selection of cakes, muffins, tarts, patisserie and quiches baked daily by the other half of Jarajam's sister duo.
> Jarajam, Open Tues-Fri: 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun: 10.30am-6.30pm. (5403 8151)