The Corner

The somewhat discretely-located sign outside of Beijing's The Corner.Finding out about new coffee shops, particularly when bereft of my usual tools of twitter and Google Maps, can be tricky. Under these circumstances, I tend to fall back on Method #1: word of mouth, which is how I found out about today’s Coffee Spot, The Corner. Having tracked down Soloist Coffee Co., the barista there put me onto Metal Hands, while the barista in Metal Hands told me about The Corner. So it goes in Beijing, and China in general.

Pleasing located on a corner, The Corner is an interesting spot, all concrete floors and industrial, metal interiors, spread out over three floors, connected by a staircase at the back. It’s also the first coffee shop I know of that’s located within a car repair workshop!

The offering is based around a simple, espresso-based menu, although there are no flat whites or piccolos, rather it is lattes and cappuccinos. This is backed up with a large selection of single-origin coffees which are available on pour-over, which seems to conform to the standard in Beijing, where a (often darker-roasted) blend is offered on espresso, with single-origins on pour-over. There’s also a limited selection of very tempting cakes if you’re hungry.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Hepingli Street, just east of Ditan Park in Beijing, hides an interesting gem, The Corner.
  • You need to know where to look though. Here's the view looking east along the north side...
  • ... of the road, and this is the view looking west, back towards the park. What you want...
  • ... is behind you on the south side, where you need to look for the big B+.
  • There's also a reassuring sign, but it's not that visible from the street.
  • This is clearer, when the front's not blocked by vehicles (photo courtesy of The Corner).
  • Ignore the sign that says 'Entrance' at little further along and squeeze down here...
  • ... past the side of the building, where you'll find the entrance to The Corner.
  • The door leads you into the front of The Corner, which spreads out off to the right.
  • The counter, meanwhile, is ahead of you, with a concrete step between it and the door.
  • You need to go around to the front of the counter, which looks out into The Corner...
  • ... and continues along the left-hand wall where it morphs into a set of bookshelves!
  • You can sit at the counter, but most of the seating's at the back, starting with these tables.
  • There is a row of two-person tables pushed together to form a set of two & one of three.
  • These tables, seen here from the left-hand wall, are effectively in the middle of The Corner.
  • There's a wide, open space between the tables and counter, with more seating behind the tables at the back of The Corner.
  • The remaining seating is on the right, the left being kept clear as a walkway.
  • There's a large sofa unit facing the back, then, under the stairs, there's a small bench.
  • The bench in the corner of The Corner. It's a shame it's not a corner unit...
  • Anoother view of the seating at the back, plus the stairs which run across the back wall.
  • Looking from the foot of the stairs towards the front and there's a clear path to the door.
  • The sofa unit, seen from the back. I reckon it could comfortably seat eight people.
  • Shall we see what's upstairs?
  • A solitary window at the back provides much-need natural light (photo by The Corner).
  • The view of the ground floor from half way up the stairs.
  • There's a little landing in the corner, then the stairs double back on themselves.
  • The landing, by the way, provides another good view of the ground floor.
  • Carrying on, the stairs lead up & across to a mezzanine level above the front of The Corner.
  • There's lots more seating up here, all in the shape of conventional tables.
  • There's a long row of tables at the front, then four more arranged in a square.
  • The walkway to the mezzanine also provides an excellent view of the sofa and tables below.
  • The stairs, meanwhile, carry on up...
  • ... where they lead to a final room on the top floor. This was closed while I was there...
  • ... but has lots more tables for when it gets really busy.
  • Time to go back down.
  • There are some nice touches in The Corner, like the tote bags on the wall.
  • The company behind The Corner also publishes a coffee shop guide to Beijing.
  • Of course, The Corner is featured! Sadly, it's only in Chinese.
  • The Corner, by the way, is named after a famous Chinese book of the same name...
  • ... excerpts of which appear on the menu and elsewhere throughout the coffee shop.
  • The obligatory light-bulb shot comes courtesy of The Corner.
  • Right, to business.
  • I ordered an espresso and a slice of cheesecake.
  • The 'We Want Plates' brigade will not be pleased, but the cheesecake was excellent.
  • My espresso was darker than some, but with a pleasing acidity to it.
  • I'll leave you with a last look at the crema on my espresso.
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Finding out about Chinese speciality coffee shops is one thing, but tracking them down is another matter entirely, particularly since some of them are very adept at hiding. Located on Hepingli Street, just east of Ditan Park, The Corner takes this to new levels: had I walked up and down the street 100 times, I doubt I’d have found it. Fortunately, the barista at Metal Hands showed me a picture of the building it’s in, without which I’d have been completely lost.

The Corner occupies a large, long white building on the south side of the road with “B+“ painted on the top corner (there’s a picture in the gallery). At street level, a small sign saying “Café” is the only clue you have, but that’s easily missed since the building’s set well back. There’s also a sign saying “Entrance” but ignore that since it’s the entrance to workshop’s offices. They must, however, be used to people making the mistake because when I wandered in and said “Café?” in a suitably puzzled tone, they just waved me through the back where a corridor leads to The Corner.

Rather than my circuitous route, go down the (very narrow) gap at the side of the building, descending two steps on the way, where you’ll find a metal door next to a window with the words “The Corner” reassuringly painted on it. The door’s at the front of The Corner, on the right-hand side, opening immediately next to the counter. This runs along the front wall, facing into The Corner, so to get to the till, you need to go around to your left. A La Marzocco Linea espresso machine comes next, then there’s an area for pour-overs, where there are three clear, plastic stools for you to sit on and watch proceedings.

The counter, which looks as if it’s single concrete casting, continues along the left-hand wall where it morphs into bookshelves. The seating, meanwhile, is at the back on the right, leaving the left-hand side free to act as a long corridor connecting the counter with the staircase at the back, where you can also reach the offices and workshop.

The seating starts with a line of five two-person tables behind which is a long, six person sofa unit, with a corner seat at either end, three round, brass-topped tables in front of it. This faces the stairs, underneath which you’ll find one more seat, a two-person concrete shelf with padded cushions in the right-hand corner, with a solitary, small, round table.

The stairs run across the back wall from left to right, doubling back on themselves to give access to a metal walk-way which leads to a mezzanine level over the front half the store. There’s a long, communal table on the far side, over the counter, while on the right (your left) a group of four two-person tables are arranged in a square. The stairs continue to a second floor, where there’s a further room (closed during my visit) with even more tables for when it’s very busy.

The lighting downstairs can best be described as subdued, with three tall, narrow windows, plus the square window by the door providing the majority of the light. Other than that, you are relying on spotlights in the low, black ceiling of the mezzanine level. There is also borrowed light from the area at the back by the stairs.

I had a double espresso, which was commendably short and served in a round, bowl-like cup. The Corner uses a medium-dark blend, but with a nice acidity to it that really lifted it above the ordinary. I paired this with a slice of cheesecake, which, for whatever reason, has become my go-to cake in China. Without exception, they have been excellent and this lived up to expectations. Sometimes cheesecakes can be a bit light/ephemeral, but not this one. Thick and creamy, it had a real density to it.

While I was there, I met with Joyce, The Corner’s marketing manager. In the coffee-shop equivalent of paying it forward, she returned the favour done by Soloist/Metal Hands by giving me a long list of coffee shops to visit on my return to Shanghai, including Lanna Coffee and UNDEF/NE.

Monday 08:30 – 20:30 Roaster To Be Confirmed (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 20:30 Seating Tables, Sofas, Counter
Wednesday 08:30 – 20:30 Food Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 20:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:30 – 20:30 Cards Cash Only
Saturday 08:30 – 20:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:30 – 20:30 Power Limited
Chain No Visits 6th December 2017

If you want to read more about my trip to China, including the other Coffee Spots I found along the way, there’s a page dedicated to the trip.

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5 thoughts on “The Corner

  1. I like to wander, see where my feet take me, but can mean consuming a lot of bad coffee.

    But once a good coffee shop found, it is worth asking, as they will direct you to others.

    It is very unusual for me to use a guide. I prefer discovery.

  2. Pingback: Lanna Coffee, Yuyuan Road | Brian's Coffee Spot

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  4. Pingback: Metal Hands Coffee Co | Brian's Coffee Spot

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