% Arabica, Xintiandi Plaza

The % Arabica logo from the floor of its latest Shanghai branch in the Sunken Plaza of the Xintiandi Plaza shopping centre.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.

  • % Arabica in the Sunken Plaza at Xintiandi Plaza in Shanghai. But how to get there?
  • Well, this is the starting point, the Xintiandi Plaza in all its glory on Huaihai Road...
  • ... not to be confused with the taller K11 across the road.
  • Of course, this being Shanghai, you might not see either, since they're accessible via...
  • ... the metro, using Exit 2, which also leads directly into the basement of K11.
  • Instead, this is what we want, the doors leading straight into the basement of Xintiandi.
  • That said, you might prefer to go the surface route, in which case, Exit 3 is your friend.
  • At street level, a handy sign lists what you'll find in the two-level basement.
  • This is what we're looking for: Level One of the basement (B1) and the Sunken Plaza.
  • And, as we descend the steps (or escalator), what's that on the right?
  • It's % Arabica!
  • But which of the two sets of doors to use? The middle ones or the one on the left?
  • Well, that's pretty clear. The left-hand door it is.
  • Neat sign, by the way. Very concise!
  • Inside, a long counter runs along the entire back wall.
  • Meanwhile, there is plenty of seating, both to the left and right.
  • This curved six-seat bar runs along the outside wall between the two doors...
  • ... while there's another in the much narrower section past the middle doors.
  • This is much more easily seen from outside.
  • Finally there is a long bench at the back against the right-hand wall .
  • The bench, in a rare, unoccupied moment.
  • % Arabica is very strong on its branding. There's a limited range of merchandising...
  • ... while the logo is everywhere, including on the threshold (a common % Arabica feature).
  • This one, meanwhile, hangs on the wall.
  • Another common element is the coffee bean map of the world, which is my favourite.
  • So, to business. The heart of the operation are these twin three-group Slayers...
  • ... while the pour-over (and grinding for retail sales) takes place at the back.
  • You order at the (perpetually busy) till which is in front of the door where you enter.
  • The menu is on a clipboard with the different drink options...
  • ... while there's a whole list of different origins for retail sales (but only in Chinese).
  • A sample of the beans by the till...
  • ... along with a range of Chemex (for sale).
  • Once you've ordered, make your way along the counter...
  • ... passing the twin Slayers and their three grinders...
  • ... pausing only to admire the espresso machine's inner workings.
  • Once you reach the far end, you'll find...
  • ... a wide open space (conveniently next to the merchandising display)...
  • ... where you wait to collect your coffee (in exchange for your receipt, so hang onto it!).
  • My latte, in my Therma Cup (% Arabica is, disappointingly, takeaway cups only).
  • Nice latte art...
  • ... which lasted all the way to the bottom of the cup.
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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.

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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6 thoughts on “% Arabica, Xintiandi Plaza

  1. Pingback: % Arabica, Shanghai Roastery | Brian's Coffee Spot

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  3. Pingback: % Arabica, Fujii Daimaru | Brian's Coffee Spot

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  5. Hi Brian, thank you for your honest reviews. I would like to ask for your top recommendations for coffee in Shanghai, besides popular chains such as arabica that are worth the visit.

    • Hi Jo,

      There’s a lot of good coffee in Shangahi, although I’ve not been there for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find all of my Shanghai Coffee Spots here. Local coffee shop/roaster chains like Seesaw, Mellower Coffee and Manner Coffee, were all growing strongly the last time I was there, with lots of new coffee shops opening. My favourite of them is Little Bean, which roasts some really great coffee.

      If you want something a little smaller/independent, try AUNN Café & Co., which uses Little Bean, UNDEF/NE, which uses local roaster, Shenyang Black & White, or Chez Black Coffee, which uses another local roaster, Yûn Coffee Roasters.

      For a Japanese-inspired coffee experience, there’s Rumors Coffee Roasters, while for a farm-to-cup experience, Lanna Coffee only serves Chinese-grown coffee from its own farms in Yunnan province.

      Hope that helps!

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