Seesaw 433

The Seesaw logo.Seesaw is a roastery and a chain of seven Shanghai coffee shops, although this one, Seesaw 433, is the original, having opened in 2012. Like most of the places I visited in Shanghai, it helps to know where it is, only more so in this case, since it’s at the back of a design centre, with no obvious signs on the street. If I hadn’t have known it was there, I would have missed it completely.

However, it would have been a shame to walk past since it’s a beautiful spot, with an enclosed courtyard, complete with glass roof. Perhaps because the courtyard is completely enclosed, it’s no smoking, but despite this, it can still get very hot and humid. If you want air-conditioning (or power outlets for your laptop), you’ll need to head inside the coffee shop proper, off to one side of the courtyard.

Seesaw roasts all its own coffee in a dedicated facility. There’s a seasonal house-blend and single-origin on espresso, with six or seven further single-origins on pour-over/cold brew, with all the typical origins represented. You can also buy the beans to take home with you, while if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of western-style cakes.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • This is, I confess, not the most promising location for a coffee shop. Let's check it out.
  • Down here, you say? Are you sure? I'm not convinced, you know.
  • Well, a quick check of the name board on the side of the passage...
  • ... seems to suggest that it is. Let's go!
  • At the far end of the passage, there's a door, and through the door...
  • ... there's this wonderful courtyard with a glass roof! This looks more like it!
  • You can wander around the courtyard area. This is the view from the back. Now then, what's that on the left-hand side! A sweeping staircase! Where does that go?
  • In fact the staircase connects to a balcony that runs all the way around the courtyard.
  • Let's go!
  • The view from half way up the stairs...
  • ... and from the top.
  • Working your way around the balcony in a clockwise direction...
  • ... gives you great views of the seating in the courtyard below.
  • The door on the left is where we came in...
  • ... while this is the view from the other end.
  • All the courtyard seating in one shot.
  • Keeping going, this is the seating as seen from the other side.
  • Almost all the way around now.
  • There's the door to the coffee shop proper...
  • ... although check out the neat little bar to the right.
  • We've almost got all the way around to the top stairs, where we can go back down.
  • A view of the downstairs seating from near the door where you come in.
  • There's a neat little bar on the right with a choice of three bar stools.
  • It  looks in on the counter...
  • ... and is THE spot to sit if you want to watch coffee being made!
  • Okay. I think it might be time to go in.
  • Nice welcome mat!
  • The view in through the door.
  • The bulk of the seating is off to the left.
  • There are tables in the centre, and, at the front, there's a window-bar.
  • Meanwhile, there are more tables against a wooden bench along the back wall.
  • Finally, you can sit on a bar stool at the counter, either at the front, or down the side...
  • ... where you'll also find these retail shelves. And a bike.
  • Alternatively, you can always head back outside and take your chances in the courtyard.
  • On second thoughts, it looks like every seat is taken!
  • The retail shelves have all the usuals: cups, coffee and coffee-making kit.
  • Other interesting features: coffee grounds to take home.
  • The guest espresso (a Kenyan) and a list of all Seesaw locations in Shanghai.
  • Oh look! Just after my visit, Seesaw will be 'redecorated'. So my photos are out-of-date...
  • Never mind. Let's order some coffee! The counter is to the right of the door.
  • The espresso machine and grinders are on the back wall, menu above.
  • The espresso menu is fairly standard, with a choice of house-blend or single-origin.
  • However, I was a bit espressoed out that day...
  • ... so I thought I'd go for a pour-over.
  • There is an impressive choice of beans, complete with notes.
  • If you don't fancy them as pour-over, you can have them as cold brew instead.
  • And something to go with your cake? Seesaw has a very western range of cakes...
  • These are set at the front of the counter, just to tempt you.
  • There are influences from Italy (left) and America (right)...
  • ... although in fairness, it's mostly American!
  • Finally, you could have something cold and fizzy.
  • However, I went for a slice of Grandma's cake...
  • ... and a pour-over using Chinese coffee from the Yunnan Province...
  • ... which was so good, I bought a bag to take home with me!
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On the south side of Yuyuan Road, west of Jing’an Park, there’s no visual clue to Seesaw. Have faith though and head down a long (and very unpromising) passageway which feels like the driveway to a car park. Just before the end, a pair of glass doors on your right lead into the amazing courtyard, with Seesaw off to the right in a spacious ground floor unit at the back of the building.

A full three storeys high, bright and spacious, the courtyard’s a wonderful spot to sit and drink your coffee, as long as you can stand the heat/humidity. The seating area occupies about half the width of the available space, with a broad corridor on the left, separated by pillars and planters, giving access to a sweeping staircase at the back. This leads to the other floors, including a balcony on the first floor which overlooks the courtyard on all sides.

There’s an eight-person communal table on the left as you enter, followed by two rows of three/four-person square tables, one row to the left against the planters, another down the centre, each containing three tables. Finally, against the right-hand wall, a three-person bar looks in on the counter-area inside through an open hatch. Next comes a pair of large, sliding doors, drawn back to allow free passage, beyond which is a two-person table which acts as a bar, facing the wall.

Stepping inside, the counter is to your right, with seating to your left. This is arranged around the three walls, providing some symmetry with the counter, although there is a cluster of tables in the centre. A wooden bench with tables runs along the back wall, while two round, four-person tables, the second by the left-hand wall, line the middle. There are two more square tables against the front wall, plus a little, one-person bar in the window. Finally, you can sit at the counter, either at the front, which faces the seating, or down the side, which runs parallel with the back wall. As is the case in the courtyard, each side has three bar-stools.

A word of warning about the layout: a week after I visited, Seesaw was closed for a month for “redecoration”, so expect my descriptions to be somewhat out-of-date!

Coffee in Shanghai often comes with a western price-tag and then some, with Seesaw serving its pour-overs for 38 RMB (a touch under £5), with the exception of the Geisha, while the retail bags averaged around £8 for 200g. Although faced with a considerable choice, as soon as I spotted a Chinese coffee from Yunnan Province on the pour-over menu, my decision was made. I paired this with a slice of Grandmother’s Cake, which was very Italian in concept, with excellent pastry and a good, creamy filling, but not too sweet.

My coffee came in a lovely, double-walled glass, whereas other people seemed to be served with a carafe, a small glass on the side. On closer inspection, this was the ubiquitous iced coffee, the carafe holding the ice before the coffee is poured over it. It was a surprising brew, more subtle than my first taste of Chinese coffee at Sumerian Coffee, but still with plenty of body. Interestingly, it became richer and bolder as it cooled.

I suspect that Yunnan coffee will never win over those who like fruity Kenyans or the subtlety of a good Yirgacheffe, but if you enjoy something bold yet distinctive (think a good Sumatran, for example) then you’ll probably love this. I was sufficiently impressed that I bought a bag of it to take home!

433 YUYUAN ROAD • JINGAN QU • SHANGHAI • CHINA
www.seesawcoffee.com +44 (0) Tel Number
Monday 09:00 – 19:00 Roaster Seesaw (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Counter
Wednesday 09:00 – 19:00 Food Cake
Thursday 09:00 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 19:00 Cards Cash Only (Union Pay)
Saturday 10:00 – 19:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 19:30 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 2nd October 2016

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