RICHARD STILLER and INGIBJÖRG FERRER share their experience of Guangzhou in Issue 4 of 25 Magazine.
In this big conglomerate of old and new where long-standing structures mix with striking new edifices, and parks and skyscrapers cohabit in densely populated areas, the most eye-catching buildings are the iconic Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House designed by Zaha Hadid. These features pay tribute to the modern, more globalized era of the city, marking it as a perfect location to hold the World Coffee Roasting Championship.
Though China is mostly known for its tea, coffee is rising fast and more and more specialty cafés are opening in all the major cities. There are a handful of specialty cafés in Guangzhou serving great coffee in stylish surrounds, and surfing the third wave of coffee.
Our first stop was APF.KAFE, a coffee shop that draws inspiration from the Scandinavian approach to design, coffee shops, and coffee: clean and minimalist in style with light-roasted coffee. The shop, located off a main road in the Tianhe District, is quiet, and entering is like stepping into another world, a world that is in stark contrast to the massive, loud city outside the door. The space feels like an oasis for the body with its welcoming, relaxing, and calming atmosphere. The filter coffee is served in a clay jug with matching small clay cups positioned on a wooden tray – a stylish arrangement which focuses on the coffee and its taste.
Within walking distance from APF.KAFE, through the city’s noise and dust, we found HAY Coffee Company. This café provides a very different atmosphere, leaning into industrial design with a stylish espresso and brew bar. Big neon letters blaze brightly on the wall, and artwork around the café features a mix of street art, anime, and comic-style figures. HAY’s large international magazine collection invites you to linger over coffee that it roasts itself. Although strikingly different in style to APF. KAFE, the café also provides a quiet and relaxing environment where you can enjoy the coffee in all its beauty.
Finally, visiting Feel More Coffee & Bagels rounds up the variety of specialty coffee shops Guangzhou has to offer. This coffee shop, also in the Tianhe District, has the vibe of a secret surf hot spot with dominant hues of bright yellow, great music and, you guessed it, amazing bagels. Located in a tiny, green park this coffee shop not only satisfies the coffee enthusiast but also diners hungry for some American- style bagels. With a friendly atmosphere and happy vibe, Feel More Coffee & Bagels is very welcoming.
There are, of course, more places to visit; however, our short glimpse into Guangzhou ends here. As the city develops so does its third wave coffee scene, although specialty coffee remains a niche product favored by ex-pats and high-income earners due to its relatively expensive price tag. There is still some way to go for specialty coffee in this exciting city, but the first crucial steps have been made with a diverse line-up of cafés catering to every taste.
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