Welcome to the third in my new series, Travels with my Coffee, where I take my coffee to all the best places, particularly when there are no speciality coffee shops to be found. So far I’ve covered my trip around Florida and Phoenix at the start of 2018 and my road trip through Arizona & New Mexico at the start of this year. Now it’s the turn of my trip to Shanghai back in March.
I’ve already written about one of the finds of that trip, my new gooseneck pouring jug, which has fundamentally changed how I make filter coffee on the go. I also tried a new (for me) pour-over method, the all-in-one filter bag. You’ll see how that went later on.
Although I was in Shanghai for a month, it was mostly for work and I didn’t have much opportunity to leave the city for a variety of reasons. However, towards the end of the trip, I did manage to get out and about, first to the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, then further afield to the nearby city of Hangzhou. Naturally, I took my coffee, in particular my Travel Press, Global WAKEcup and Therma Cup, with me.
You can see what I got up to in the gallery.
I took a day trip to Zhujiajiao, which is technically a suburb of Shanghai, expecting not to find any speciality coffee, so I took my Travel Press and Global WAKEcup with me to ensure that I would have some good coffee along the way. As it turns out, I underestimated Zhujiajiao, stumbling across a lovely coffee shop, The Point. If you are interested in visiting Zhujiajiao, which is on Shanghai’s western fringes, I would thoroughly recommend it. Around 1,700 years old, It’s a lovely city full of narrow, winding alleys, canals, and old, stone bridges, and is easily accessible via the newly-constructed metro Line 17.
The following day, I took an overnight trip to Hangzhou, just under 200 km southwest of Shanghai and only an hour away by high-speed train. Hangzhou’s West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was the main reason for my going. After three weeks in the city, I wanted some fresh air and hiking opportunities, enjoying a couple of long rambles along the lake shore and in the hills to the north (known as Baoshi Mountain). The views, as you can see in the gallery, were magnificent.
Along the way (on the train trip there, to be precise) I got to try out a new (for me) pour-over method, the all-in-one filter bag. I say new, but there’s nothing new about these bags, which have been around for a long time, although speciality coffee has tended to steer clear of them. Until I saw them in Verve Coffee Roasters on my recent trip to the USA, I’d only ever seen them in Chinese and Japanese specialty coffee shops.
The concept is very simple: pre-ground coffee is placed in a sealed (usually paper) filter bag with some sort of cardboard fastening at the top. When you are ready, you open the bag and use the cardboard to hook it over the top of your cup. This has the dual effect of holding the bag open and keeping it steady. Then you pour in hot water and voila!, instant(ish) pour-over coffee (take a look at the pictures in the gallery: it’s much simpler than describing it).
I must confess to being sceptical, the main issue being the freshness of the pre-ground coffee. However, when I’d visited Mellower Coffee a few days earlier, the staff had given me an all-in-one filter bag of its Enchanting Yunnan single-origin (compensation for having run out of retail bags of beans), so I thought I would give it a go, particularly when the train turned out to have an on-board hot water dispenser (most Chinese trains do).
Given my low expectations, I was actually very pleased with the resulting cup of coffee, made with no more fanfare than putting the filter onto my Global WAKEcup and pouring hot water into the filter. It was never going to be amazing, but my Enchanting Yunnan was indeed enchanting, with some pleasing fruity notes that I wasn’t expecting.
If I was starting from scratch without any coffee kit whatsoever, I can see the appeal of the all-in-one filter bag and, after my experience on the train, I won’t turn my nose up at them in the future, but I can’t see me dispensing with my travelling coffee kit just yet!
If you’ve enjoyed this instalment, check out where else I’ve taken my coffee in my Travels with my Coffee series.
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