Chez Black Coffee

The logo of Chez Back from the pillar outside Chez Black Coffee on Taian Road, ShanghaiLike yesterday’s Coffee Spot, BLUEKING Coffee, Chez Black Coffee was a chance discovery, something seen through a window once again drawing me in. I was wandering the leafy streets of the old French Concession, perhaps my favourite Shanghai district, when the awning, with its single word, “Coffee”, caught my eye. I crossed the road, more in hope than expectation, but then, glancing in the window, I saw the most amazing-looking espresso machine sitting on the counter. A modular design, akin to the Modbar and Mavam systems, this looked like it had been designed by a Steampunk enthusiast, who’d crossed it with a lever machine, the result all angular lines and brass cylinders. Naturally, I had to go in.

Espresso machine aside, Chez Black is a lovely spot, a cross between a coffee shop and a library. There’s plenty of seating options, each one cosy in its own particular way. You can sit at outside, at the counter, chatting with the baristas or at the back with the books, where there’s a delightful mezzanine. The coffee is from Shanghai’s Yûn Coffee Roasters, with a single-origin on espresso and two more on pour-over, backed up by a small but delightful cake selection.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Chez Black Coffee seen from the corner of Taian and Xingguo Roads, Shanghai.
  • Nice logo.
  • Unless you want to sit outside on the solitary sofa-bench, head inside...
  • ... where you'll find the first of the seating options, a pair of blue chairs, dead ahead.
  • Opposite these is another sofa-bench, this time with a small coffee table attached.
  • The counter, meanwhile, is on the right, running towards the back of the shop.
  • You can sit at one of four bar stools, but be prepared to chat with the lovely baristas.
  • Chez Black continues beyond the counter...
  • ... making full use of the amazingly high ceilings.
  • A four/five-person table is immediately beyond the counter, with chairs on the far side.
  • This is followed by a pair of round, three-person tables at the back by the bookshelves.
  • Check out the ladder in the corner for accessing the top shelves...
  • ... although you'd need a better head for heights that I have to use it!
  • Finally, in the corner off to the left is a mezzanine level, while the seating underneath...
  • ... looks really cosy.
  • The mezzanine looks appealing too.
  • Let's go up, shall we?
  • At the top is a three-piece suite occupying the back and left-hand walls.
  • The two armchairs are against the left-hand wall...
  • ... while the sofa is up against the back wall, the coffee table in front of it.
  • The front wall is occupied by a single, large mirror, which gives it a great sense of space.
  • This leaves the front of the mezzanine open...
  • ... with its views of the seating downstairs. Here's the table at the back...
  • ... and the four/five-person table...
  • ... and the counter, which you can also see.
  • Just make sure you don't fall down the gap where the stairs are!
  • Time to go back down.
  • ... where you'll need to go back to the counter to order.
  • The books are a nice touch. There are volumes in both Chinese and English.
  • Chez Black also runs book exchanges.
  • Very true.
  • There's plenty of artwork on the walls. These are at the back on the right...
  • ... while this greets you opposite the counter at the front.
  • This, however, under the mezzanine, might be my favourite!
  • The WiFi cubes are also an excellent idea.
  • Check out the tiny kettle on top!
  • There are various bits and pieces for sale. Some are behind the counter...
  • ... like retail boxes of coffee (and check it out: the oat milk revolution has reached China).
  • There's also a dedicated retail shelf at the back, complete with trophies...
  • ... from a recent visit to London. Not what I expected to find in Shanghai!
  • More tropihies!
  • Down to business. The simple menu is on the wall to the right of the counter...
  • ... with more details on the counter-top itself.
  • Pour-over choices are displayed on the counter, El Salvador & Guatemala during my visit.
  • Meanwhile, you'll find the cake selection next to the menus.
  • Best of all, though, is the amazing espresso machine from Italy's XLVI.
  • It's a modular system, but looks like it was designed by a steampunk enthusiast...
  • ... with its angles and brass cylinders. Sorry I couldn't get any better photos of it!
  • The grinder is at the end, an Ethiopian single-orign (while I was there) in the hopper.
  • Everything is weighed/timed at Chez Black. Here the scales are zeroed before the shot.
  • Here it comes!
  • I love watching espresso extract and, if you sit at the counter, you have the perfect view.
  • My espresso, served with a glass of water, of course...
  • ... and here on its own.
  • It was every bit as good as it looked...
  • ... as was this strawberry cheesecake, which is where I'll leave you.
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Chez Black Coffee which opened in December 2018, is the second in the Chez Black stable after the original Espresso Bar, which opened earlier in 2018. I discovered it while walking between % Arabica’s original Shanghai coffee shop, on Ferguson Lane, and the second Rumors, around the corner on Xingguo Road. Interestingly, all three share a common theme: the owners married someone from Shanghai, opening (several) coffee shops in their spouse’s home city, although in the case of % Arabica and Rumors, the new arrivals were Japanese, while Chez Black’s owner, Paul Franssen, is from Amsterdam.

From the street, there doesn’t seem to be much to Chez Black, just a simple, square glass-paned front, most of which is occupied by a pair of double doors, through which you can see the counter and its eye-catching espresso machine. You can sit out here, on a small sofa-bench to the left of the door, or inside, between the door and the counter, at a two-person table against the right-hand wall. Alternatively, there’s a padded bench with a small coffee table against the left-hand wall.

The counter is set back from the door, running along the right-hand wall. You can sit here if you like, at one of four high stools towards the back, past the cake and the till, where you’ll be up close and personal with the espresso machine, which, I learnt, is from Italian company, XLVI.

Although that’s all you can see from the window, Chez Black keeps going, forming an L-shape. There’s a four-person table immediately beyond the counter, with a pair of three-person cocktail tables beyond that, in front of a floor-to-ceiling set of bookshelves, the library part of Chez Black. A ladder on the right gives access to the higher shelves. Finally, extending to the left, you’ll find the mezzanine and the last of the seating.

The space underneath the mezzanine is given over to a small, cosy area with an armchair and a comfy chair, facing each other over a coffee table. Meanwhile, to the left, steps give access to the mezzanine, which has a large mirror on its front wall, creating an illusion of space, while against the left-hand and back walls is a three-piece suite, consisting of two armchairs and a sofa.

Although I don’t come to China expecting everyone to speak English, at Chez Black, both my baristas, and one of the customers, who was also called Brian, all spoke great conversational English, making chatting easy. It also helps that the library (which now has a copy of The Philosophy of Coffee) has an equal mix of books in English and Chinese. There are other neat touches, including power outlets at almost every seat, with Chinese, American and European sockets, plus USB sockets and, in case you’ve forgotten yours, USB leads as well.

Turning to the coffee, there were two single-origins on pour-over available through the V60 (an El Salvador and a Guatemalan during my visit) and a very lightly roasted single-origin Ethiopian espresso (lighter, for example, than the Ethiopian single-origin at % Arabica). It was also different in character, slightly tarter, with more acidity, unlike anything that I’ve had on this visit to Shanghai, making it a welcome change (the closest was the espresso at UNDEF/NE). I paired this with amazing, rich, creamy strawberry cheesecake, one of the small selection available up by the till.

All-in-all, Chez Black is a lovely, relaxing spot that I wholeheartedly recommend!

Monday 09:30 – 19:30 Roaster Yûn Coffee Roasters (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:30 – 19:30 Seating Counter, Tables, Comfy Chairs
Wednesday 09:30 – 19:30 Food Cake
Thursday 09:30 – 19:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:30 – 19:30 Cards QR Code
Saturday 09:30 – 19:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:30 – 19:30 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 11th March 2019

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1 thought on “Chez Black Coffee

  1. Pingback: Rumors Coffee Roasters, Xingguo Road | Brian's Coffee Spot

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