My first experience of % Arabica in Shanghai wasn’t, in fact, the flagship Shanghai Roastery, but instead came two days earlier at the Xintiandi Plaza shopping mall, rather mirroring my first ever experience of % Arabica at Kyoto’s Fujii Daimaru Department Store. This is the most recent of (for now) four % Arabicas stores in Shanghai, located in the mall’s rather pleasant semi-open basement courtyard. As with all the % Arabica stores that I’ve visited, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own. This is despite there being a reasonable amount of seating, with two window-bars and a comfortable bench.
Turning to the coffee, the offering’s identical across all % Arabica’s Shanghai branches: house-blend (Brazil and two different Ethiopians) and single-origin, both available as espresso or pour-over (through the Chemex), with a limited selection of pleasingly-small sizes for milk-based drinks (4, 6 and 8oz). And, other than some merchandising and a retail selection of beans, that’s it, although there is a food court in the basement, where you’re welcome to take your coffee.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Xintiandi Plaza is opposite the K11 Mall, home of Little Bean Coffee Museum. Like K11, it’s directly accessible from the Huangpi South Road station on Shanghai Metro Line 1. Just take Exit 2, turning right for Xintiandi Plaza rather than left for K11. However, unlike Little Bean, which is just inside the door, you work a little harder here, arriving on Level 2 of the basement, while % Arabica is outside on Level 1, part of a basement courtyard called the Sunken Plaza.
Indeed, you might be better off entering from street level, where steps at the front of Xintiandi Plaza lead straight down into the Sunken Plaza, an open, quarter circle on the right, % Arabica clearly visible as you descend.
% Arabica’s front wall, made entirely of glass, follows the circle’s outer edge, the store occupying a right-angled space behind it. There are two doors, one at the left-hand end, the other in the middle of the curve. Entering on the left, you exit on the right, although despite this being fairly obvious and very well sign-posted, a constant stream came in through the middle doors.
The left-hand doors deposit you at the left-hand end of a long counter running the length of the back wall. The till is directly ahead, where you order from menus on clipboards, then make your way past the twin, gleaming white three-group Slayer Espresso machines, separated by three grinders (white, of course) to a broad area at the counter’s far end where you collect your coffee. There’s also a range of merchandising here, with branded cups, shoes, containers and rucksacks.
Coffee collected, you leave by the middle door, which is right behind you, or find somewhere to sit, which, despite the takeaway nature of the option, seems to be the majority’s favoured option, complete with a policy of abandoning their cups when done (although, in fairness, there are no bins). There are two long, curved window-bars following the glass wall. The first, between the doors, seats six, while beyond the middle door, the second seats seven. Finally, a broad wooden bench against the rear portion of the right-hand wall seats maybe six.
As with all branches of % Arabica, the décor is clinical, predominantly white, with blonde wood benches and a concrete and glass floor. It’s a bright space, with plenty of borrow light from windows looking out onto sunken courtyard and was a surprisingly pleasant space in which to linger.
I ordered a latte in my Therma Cup (which got an admiring coo from the barista), made using the single-origin, a washed Ethiopian, which went very well with the rich, creamy milk, strong enough to come through, but not so strong that it either dominated or conflicted with the milk. The milk, by the way, held the latte art to the bottom of the cup, always a good sign.
|XINTIANDI PLAZA • SHOP 33-35, B1 • 333 HUAIHAI ROAD • HUANGPU • SHANGHAI • CHINA|
|https://arabica.coffee||+86 180 4974 1117|
|Monday||09:00 – 21:00||Roaster||% Arabica (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 21:00||Seating||Window Bar x 2, Bench|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 21:00||Food||N/A|
|Thursday||09:00 – 21:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||09:00 – 21:00||Payment||Union Pay + QR Code + Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 21:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 21:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||International||Visits||6th March 2019|
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