Kunming's Best Cafes

Kunming's Best Cafes

100 years ago near the Myanmar-Yunnan border, an intrepid French traveller planted the first Arabica coffee beans. Today, Yunnan coffee is recognised as one of the finest in Asia, something that Starbucks seem to have realised from their announcement that Yunnan coffee will be added to its selection of coffees in China. For better or worse, Kunming is yet to have its own Starbucks outlet. The city does have however, an ever-expanding plethora of independently owned cafes, rising to compete with the traditional teahouses.

Here are a few of our favourite cafes in Kunming:

Salvador's Coffee House 萨尔瓦多咖啡馆View In Map
Add: 76 Wenhua Xiang, Wenlin Jie, Kunming
Add in Chinese: 昆明文林街文化巷76号
Tel: 0871 536 3525
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 09:00 - 23:30
Price: mains from around 35 RMB

Salvador’s also made it on to our list of ‘Kunming’s Best Western Food Venues’. We’ll mention it again here briefly because even if you’re not hungry, Salvador’s still makes a great place for escaping the Kunming sun and quenching your thirst, or for that early morning caffeine hit. Their freshly roasted coffee beans mean that the coffee is always fresh, and they have a free refill special offer that runs until 14:00 each day. Also worth checking out is the fresh organic lemon yoghurt smoothie. There is no Wi-Fi but internet access is provided downstairs from a central table fitted with several internet connection points – that is if you can find a space amongst the MacBook wielding foreign exchange students who flock there at weekends.

Vintage Café 茴转时光View In Map
Add: 40 – 15, Wenlin Jie, Kunming
Add in Chinese: 昆明文林街40号附15号
Tel: 0871 535 6899
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-23:30
Price: mains from around 30 RMB

Vintage Café is next on our list. Situated off busy Wenlin Jie, Vintage’s second floor makes a nice place to relax of an evening (and let the screaming children’s voices of the day’s English classes filter from your mind into oblivion). The décor is stylish with a lot of nice touches. Old corn milling stones have been converted into trendy tables and there is also the novelty of a large ceramic fermentation jar in the rest room, which acts as a latrine. In contrast to most other cafes in Kunming, which prefer the Yunnan grown Arabica bean, Vintage plump for a Vietnamese variety. We can’t really tell the difference, although it must be said that we’re not that much of a coffee connoisseur! What isn’t difficult to discern however, is the heavenly taste of the café’s innovative salad range. Our particular favourite is the lamb and blue cheese. They also do a hearty burger. One proviso about Vintage is the service. On more than one occasion we’ve had a half an hour to an hour wait for even small orders when the café hasn’t been especially busy. We’re not sure if this is down to the relatively small size of the kitchen or prevaricating fuwuyuan. Nonetheless, our advice is don’t go to Vintage if you’re starving and in desperate need of food fixing.

Prague Café 布拉格咖啡馆View In Map
Add: 40 – 5,6 Wenlin Jie, Kunming
Add in Chinese: 文林街40号附5号附6号
Tel: 0871 533 2764
Opening hours: 08:30-23:30
Price: mains from around 30 RMB

Along with Salvador’s, Prague is one of the older establishments in Kunming. There’s also a location in the north of the city and another in Lijiang, from where this small chain and its boss come from. Recently refurbished, the Wenlin Jie location is stylish but a bit too chintzy for our liking, with lots of cutesy porcelain cats and bric-a-brac lining the walls and shelves. However, the atmosphere is friendly and the service fast and efficient. The menu is very comprehensive covering a range of foods, as borne out by the international clientele. Particularly good value are the Japanese rice based dishes on the menu. The pizzas are tasty but rather on the small side, as are the cups of coffee. Prague is an especially good option if Salvador’s is packed out and you don’t want to risk eating your own hands at Vintage!

Chicago Coffee 芝城咖啡View In Map
Add: 36 Times Avenue, THINK UK Apartment Complex, 88 Jiaoling Lu, Kunming
Add in Chinese: 昆明茭菱路88号创意英国泰晤士大道36号
Tel: 0871 538 9228
Opening hours: 09:00-23:30
Price: mains from around 30 RMB

Set away from the foreigner hot spot of Wenlin Jie, the relatively new Chicago Coffee already has a reputation as one of the best coffee joints in Kunming. Particularly, the iced mocha seems to get rave reviews from everyone. The café does a pretty good impersonation of a generic Starbucks, which seems a little uninventive. However, we do appreciate the comfy armchairs that afford a nice spot to sit back and take in the quiet pedestrian street outside. The atmosphere is made even cosier by the fresh smell of coffee as the beans are roasted on site. This is also perhaps why coffee in Chicago is a little more expensive than in the other cafés on our list. Aside from drinks, unsurprisingly the café serves an excellent thick Chicago style pizza and a range of not quite so good Mexican fare. There is also a small collection of English language books and magazines that help pass the time. At the time of writing there was also a weekly English corner. It’s probably best to call the café for up to date details. 

Game Café 柯门View In Map
Add: 136 Wenlin Jie, Kunming
Add in Chinese: 昆明文林街136号
Tel: 0871 533 9526
Opening hours: 12:00-23:00
Price: mains from around 25 RMB

The Game Café makes the list not so much for the quality of the menu, as for the effort at something a little different. As you might have guessed, the café has a range of board games available for customers or paying groups. This makes the café a good option if you can’t stand another poor quality, Russian pirated DVD at home, or for the rare rainy day in Kunming. The game selection includes a lot of board games. There are the standards such as chess and snakes and ladders, but the café concentrates on board strategy games such as Settlers of Catan and Risk. There are also favourites, such as Jenga. The café is open to new game suggestions and there is a ‘games and language’ corner every Monday at 19:30 which is generally well attended. The menu is nothing spectacular but is reasonably priced. Non-smokers might find that the café gets a little too smoky, especially towards the end of an evening when the tension of competition transforms many of the competitors into chain smokers.

Also worth a mention are:
Yunjoy 云嘉View In Map
Add: 45 Wenhua Xiang, Wenlin Jie, Kunming
Add in Chinese: 昆明文林街文化巷45号
Tel: 0871 551 6364
Opening hours: 09:00-23:00
Price: coffee from around 15 RMB
Limited food but lots of different coffee. Gets a mixed reception.

French Café 蓝白红View In Map
Add: 70 Wenlin Jie, Kunming
Add in Chinese: 昆明文林街70号
Tel: 0871 538 2391
Opening hours: 9:00-23:30
Price: mains from around 30 RMB
Slightly lacking in atmosphere, but makes up for it with great cakes and excellent fresh bread.

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