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.

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The Coffee Academics, Wan Chai

One of the many interesting statements on the seats of the stools at the communal tables at the Wan Chai branch of The Coffee Academics in Hong Kong.The Coffee Academics is a roaster with a chain of coffee shops which, starting in Hong Kong, where there are multiple branches, has now spread to Shanghai and Singapore. It places itself firmly at the top end in terms of quality, with marketing to match. For example, I’ve never seen a coffee shop with such a fancy menu. Fortunately, the coffee (and the coffee shop) more than live up to the hype.

There’s a house-blend on espresso, with a range of standard drinks, most of which can also be had over ice. The real treat is the filter section where there’s a house-blend and four single-origins, all matched to a pair of preparation methods (Chemex and ice-drip for pour-over, Aeropress and Clever Dripper for immersion).

There’s an equally impressive range of food, which occupies most of the 16 page menu. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus various dessert options. In keeping with most of Hong Kong’s speciality coffee culture, the food is very western, with staples such as Eggs Benedict on offer. Consistent with the high-end setting, The Coffee Academics is table service only, so find a seat, peruse the menu and wait for someone to take your order.

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Barista Jam

My Indonesian West Java Arananis Honey Process pour-over, served in a carafe with a glass on the side at Barista Jam.In Hong Kong’s relatively new speciality coffee scene, Barista Jam is one of its longer-standing members. It’s also, in a market dominated by small, independent chains, something of an oddity in that it’s a one-off. In a market that also spreads from the fairly basic (18 grams’ Causeway Bay branch, for example) to the fairly sumptuous (The Cupping Room and Coffee Academics chains), it’s definitely down at the basic end of the market.

It’s a bit ramshackle in both layout and approach, but it works, with a no-nonsense approach where the coffee speaks for itself. A combination of retail (downstairs), equipment sales room (upstairs), café (both levels) and roastery (off-site), it feels as if it’s just been thrown together, although I suspect that a lot more thought than that has gone into it.

Talking of coffee, there’s a house-blend on espresso, three different single-origins on ice-drip and no fewer than 10 single-origins available as filter (most of which are available to purchase). Although it’s a small space, there’s a fully-equipped kitchen tucked away under the stairs behind the counter. This produces an impressive array of western-style food, including all-day breakfast options, various pasta dishes, sandwiches and salads.

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And Coffee

Detail taken from the top of the menu outside And Coffee in Shanghai.And Coffee is a small, almost cubic space on the busy Wulumuqi Middle Road, the door on the left and a solitary window on the right. I found it completely by chance, something about it setting off my Coffee Spot radar. I’m not quite sure what, but I’ve learnt to trust my radar over the years.

There’s not much to And Coffee. The counter occupies the back of the room and there’s just enough space for an eight-person communal table in the centre, plus a four-person window-bar at the front. And that’s it. The décor is similarly plain, verging on the austere, with white-painted walls and ceiling, punctuated by a wooden counter-front and wooden table.

Coffee-wise, there are espresso-based drinks, single-origin pour-overs (with a choice of four beans) and cold brew, all using beans from the local Moon Coffee Roaster. There’s also tea, detox smoothies and, if you’re hungry, cake.

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Manner Coffee

The word "Manner" written partly across an inverted triangle.Manner Coffee was a recommendation from Anna, my barista at Monday’s Coffee Spot, Sumerian Coffee. Handily placed just a few streets away from Sumerian Coffee on the quiet Nanyang Road, I was very grateful for the tip since I’m not sure I’d have found it by myself, particularly since it doesn’t show up on any on-line maps that I know of and has no social media presence.

I’m not even sure I’d have noticed it if I was just walking past since Manner Coffee is literally a hole-in-the-wall operation (for the pedants out there, technically it’s a window-in-the-wall operation). However, the crowd of people standing outside, waiting to order their coffee, might have drawn my attention.

And what coffee! Despite its size, Manner offers espresso (house-blend) & pour-over (various single-origins) from a selection of beans, all roasted in-house. It’s takeaway cups only though, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Sumerian Coffee

A lovely cappuccino in a handleless cup from Sumerian Coffee in Shanghai.My first taste of speciality coffee in Shanghai came from a chance discovery on twitter/Google maps when trying to find a coffee shop that someone in Hong Kong had recommended to me. I’ll say this for the Shanghai coffee scene: there are lots of great places out there, but they take some finding. I was very reliant on people on the ground helping me out with directions and suggestions.

Sumerian Coffee is a roaster and coffee shop, which also specialises in bagels. Like most of the roaster/coffee shops I came across, Sumerian does its roasting in an off-site facility. The coffee shop itself is a fairly spacious, bustling spot, kitted out almost entirely in wood. While it wouldn’t have looked out of place in London, there was something of the local character about it.

Turning to the coffee, Sumerian has a house-blend on espresso, a very impressive-looking La Marzocco Strada taking pride of place on the counter. There are five single-origins, including a decaf, available as pour-over, plus cold-brew and various coffee-over-ice options. For food, there are the aforementioned bagels, plus a range of (western) cakes and homemade cookies. You can also buy any of the beans in 200g bags.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Shanghai

The futurist Oriental Pearl TV tower on the Pudong side of Huangpu River, as seen from the Bund at night.Welcome to third instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot series, which started with my flight out to Hong Kong and continued with my adventures in Hong Kong itself. This post covers my time in Shanghai, which is the second leg of my trip. I’d never been to China before, so when I got an opportunity to go there on business, I took it with both hands.

I’ve been in Shanghai all week, but that’s mostly been spent in a meeting room on the first floor of the Hyatt, an interesting mix of modern western hotel, with Chinese architectural influences. So far I’ve not seen much of the city, although from just my limited exposure, I can say that it’s very different to Hong Kong.

I’ve now got the weekend to explore before I fly off on the third leg of my trip. Even though I’m still posting updates about my Hong Kong adventures, I wanted to get this post out while I was still in Shanghai, starting with my flight over. As with all the Travel Spots, this post is split into a number of sections which I’ll add to on a regular basis, so don’t forget to check back regularly for updates.

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The Cupping Room Central

The square facade of The Cupping Room in Central, facing onto the steeply-sloping Cochrane Street.I began my exploration of the Hong Kong coffee scene with Thursday’s Coffee Spot, 18 Grams, which was the first place that I visited. I thought it would be fitting, now that I’ve left Hong Kong, to follow that up with the final place I visiting during my short stay, The Cupping Room in Central. I’d previously visited the Wan Chai branch, also on my first day in Hong Kong, coming away suitably impressed.

I was therefore keen to try the Central branch before I left. On my way to the airport, bags safely checked-in, I made the short detour from the airport train station to The Cupping Room Central for my Sunday morning breakfast and for what turned out to be my two final coffees before leaving Hong Kong.

Spread over two compact floors, The Cupping Room serves a house-blend and seasonal single-origin on espresso, plus five more single-origins on pour-over, with bulk-brew and iced-filter if you’re in a hurry. All the coffee is roasted for The Cupping Room by Sweet Bloom in America, before being flown over to Hong Kong. If you’re hungry, there’s an impressive range of (mostly Western) food served all day, plus some delicious-looking cakes.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Hong Kong

The famous Star Ferry, seen here in 2008, crossing Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong island and Kowloon.Welcome to second instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot series, which started with my flight out to Hong Kong via Dubai. This post covers my time in Hong Kong, an amazing city which I first visited in 2008. That was primarily a business trip, but I tacked on some sight-seeing time at the end. Hong Kong had never been on my destination list, but I fell in love with it and have been wanting to return ever since.

Trying to sum up Hong Kong in a single post, let alone a 200 word introduction is futile: much like any big city, Hong Kong is an amalgam of different areas. This is particularly true when you throw in Kowloon, the New Territories and the outer islands. In nutshell, though, Hong Kong (the island) is a mountain in the sea, densely forested, both by trees and the skyscrapers which sprout up with amazing frequency. Think midtown or downtown New York, but done as the British would do it, in a “let’s muddle through” sort of way. Hot, humid, loud and busy, it exhilarates and exhausts me in equal measure.

This post is covers my four days in Hong Kong and, as with all the others, is split into a number of sections, so don’t forget to check back during the week for regular updates. For now you can read about:

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18 Grams, Causeway Bay

The words "18 GRAMS" in white in a black circle. Some stylised coffee beans are drawn above the 18.18 grams is a local café/roastery chain based in Hong Kong, with eight branches spread out over Hong Kong Island and on the mainland in Kowloon. Founded in 2010, the Causeway Bay branch, just west of Victoria Park, is one of the first branches to open back in 2011. It’s a tiny spot, with just enough room for a handful of tables inside and a couple more outside down a side alley. However, what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in character. And excellent coffee, of course.

18 grams has a standard espresso-based menu, serving the Black Sheep house-blend. This is supported by interesting options, such as a Shakerato, and a range of single-origin filter coffees. 18 grams is currently roasting eight different single-origins, two of which are available as pour-overs through the V60, either straight up or over ice. There’s also bulk-brew or cold brew if you don’t want to wait.

You’d think that would be enough for such a small place, but no. 18 grams has an impressive range of food as well, all cooked on-site in the tiny kitchen space which is nestled behind the counter along with the espresso machine and grinders.

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