In the past, local cafe options were limited to cookie-cutter Western imports like the ubiquitous Starbucks and The Coffee Beanery. And while these are good places for informal meetings, Shanghai's caf scene is rapidly evolving. Asian chains and even local start-ups are offering more elaborate fare and trendier atmospheres than previously available.
And it's not just downtown hipsters who are reaping the benefits: in the past few months, new cafs have popped up in all corners of the city. Take, for example, Hongqiao's 1 Oz 3, a concept caf promoting Australia's urban lifestyle. The menu, apart from savory meat pies and sausages, boasts traditional espresso favorites made from Belaroma roasted coffee blends. According to company spokeman Mark Plummer, the delightful flavor of his coffee is the result of good equipment, well-trained baristas and, of course, excellent beans.
Similarly high standards are found at Citta Espresso Club, which maintains the coffee-making traditions of the Sangdali family from Trieste, Italy. The blends here are characterized by their strong flavors, with hints of cacao. With its European-style ambiance, this charming caf aspires "to bring forth the coffee culture in China". The owners are ambitious: they plan to open 100 stores in China over the next four years.
Japanese expats – and anyone else with a sweet tooth – will welcome Honey B. Here, luscious fruit tarts take the spotlight, with a wide selection of cookies and buns complementing the selection. This quaint caf is a good choice for indulgence following a Japanese meal at a nearby restaurant.
For health conscious caf lovers, vitamin-rich snacks dominant the menu at RU Caf. The yogurt smoothies burst with fresh fruit flavors. One visit and you'll understand why this caf is suddenly in the limelight. The same is true of the upscale, but surprisingly affordable, Effigie Caf. This French Concession brasserie serves caf classics and modern comfort foods. By night, Effigie is also a wine bar.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese chain Caf 85 degrees has proven exceptionally popular, serving a wide array of reasonably-priced breads and cakes. Always packed with locals, this caf is great for coffee lovers on a budget.
Finally, Jinqiao's The Pastry is a suitable spot for a relaxing afternoon tea. But don't stop there – the coffee and handmade chocolate truffles are not to be missed.
These venues are among the best of a rising group of local cafs, each with character aplenty. So grab your favorite book, turn off your mobile phone and enjoy a quiet afternoon with a good cup of joe.