Left virtually untouched by the onslaught of “Western” influences, coffee drinking has only recently caught on in Chongqing. Café culture and coffee drinking may have been thriving in cities like Shanghai and Kunming, but Chongqing remained impervious to outside influences on its cuisine with coffee being considered decidedly foreign. Things changed with Chongqing’s newfound municipality status in 1997. Money pouring in from the central government and increasing foreign investment brought with it global influences. Today, coffee drinking and hanging out in cafés is no longer a “Western” thing to do. Starbucks is forever packed to the hilt – even the al fresco areas are full in the middle of blazing summers and freezing winters. Jumping on the caffeine bandwagon, lesser-known java offerings are brewing all over Chongqing.
A word of caution, however, to the serious caffeine addict: locals do not like the bitter taste of coffee. Inevitably, local joints water-down and sweeten up their brew to pander to local tastes. It might be worth a try asking staff to concoct you a stronger brew to ensure you get your caffeine fix. Another point to note is the word café is a misnomer because many outlets actually serve substantial local and selected Western main courses – the kind you would expect in restaurants. Perhaps this is why they tend to be more lavishly decorated than what is expected of a place for a quick caffeine fix. There are also coffee joints which double up as English (or other foreign language) corners – great for finding local friends who speak your language. Here’s a quick guide to how the café market in Chongqing is segmented.
1) A Room with a View: Starbucks (Chengshi Yangtai Branch) 星巴克城市阳台店View In Map
Just when you thought that this is a chain that needs no introduction, Starbucks (yes, Starbucks) at Hongya Dong is worth a mention. Perched on a mountainside overlooking the Yangtze, it is a good place to take the afternoon off, savouring the mesmerising view of the river. This location is a refreshing change from Starbuck’s cookie-cutter outlets in formulaic shopping malls. Part of a tourist attraction, its windows are lovely wooden replicas in ancient Chinese style, keeping in line with the rest of Hongya Dong. The rest of the interior is classic Starbucks, so no worries about having to sip your brew while perched on a narrow stool or seated upright on hard rosewood. As with most tourist attractions in China, it’s best to avoid during public holidays.
Add: Hongya Dong Minyufengmao Area, 58 Cangbai Lu, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市渝中区沧白路58号 洪崖洞 民俗风貌区11层城市阳台
Tel: 023 6303 8660
Opening Hours: 07:30 – 23:00
Bridge Book House. Photo: dianping.com
2) Book Cafes: Bridge Book House 博来居 书吧 View In Map
Chongqing’s reluctance to embrace “Western” influences means that books in English are not easy to find. An alternative for voracious readers who prefer the printed word is Bridge Book House – a café that provides shelves of used English books for sale or for browsing. Located on the first floor of a quiet complex in Yubei District, the interior is comfortably lit and furnished like a homely living room. This is a great place for curling up with a cuppa and a novel. Or bring your laptop and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Those who are able to read in Chinese may also appreciate cafés inside of the larger bookstore chains.
Add: Unit 1-1-5 Longhu Shuijinlicheng Liguan, below the Ferrari Showroom, Yubei District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6703 9316
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
Hupo Café. Photo dianping.com
3) A Place to Impress Your Date: Hupo Café 琥珀 View In Map
A stone’s throw from the down-to-earth Bridge Book House, Hupo Café is a coffee outlet of a different kind. Swanky and avant-garde, this café’s ambience culminates in its beautifully designed washrooms. This is the place to impress your date with its chandeliers and candle-lit interior, plush sofas and a live band that sings English pop songs. But probably the main attraction for couples is its booth that cut out all outside view. Which begs the question – how does one attract the attention of the wait staff? Probably by sticking one’s head out from behind the semi-circular sofas. This full-service café has an extensive food menu and a good selection of fruit juices and teas.
Add: Unit 1-24 Longhu Shuijinlicheng, Yubei District, Chongqing
Opening Hours: 08:30 – 01:00
Milo Coffee. Photo: dianping.com
4) A Room with a Meal: Milo Coffee 米箩咖啡
Chongqing people are known for their frugality and a drink in a café is definitely not considered a necessity. Perhaps this is why the earliest cafes functioned more like restaurants. Milo Coffee is a classic example of this genre. A varied menu of local and Western main courses and ice-cream is provided in addition to the substantial drinks menu. Also, each restaurant is nicely decorated and comfortable, making them popular for casual business lunches and dates. As with most restaurants, beware of wafting cigarette smoke during peak hours (evenings) and meal times. Western fare in such establishments is usually nothing special, so try to stick with local selections should you get hungry. Other similar establishments include Dio Coffee and the U.B.C. Coffee chain, which can be found all over the city.
Yubei BranchView In Map
Add: 187 Xinnan Lu, Yubei District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6750 0099
Opening hours: 08:30 – 01:00
Jiefangbei BranchView In Map
Add: 53 Bayi Lu, Yuzhong District, Chongqing (near the Liberation Monument)
Tel: 023 6370 9966
Nan’an BranchView In Map
Add: Unit A3-1, 1 Shanhu Lu, Nan’an District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 8986 6863
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Keywords: Coffee drinking in Chongqing coffee shops in Chongqing café culture in Chongqing best cups of coffee in Chongqing
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