A staff member makes coffee in a commercial complex reconstructed from an old building in Yuzhong District, southwest China's Chongqing, Oct. 6, 2022. (Xinhua/Tang Yi)
CHONGQING, May 16 (Xinhua) -- While coffee has made its way into many young Chinese people's daily lives, a growing number of independent coffee shops in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality not only offer quality coffee from all over the world to customers but also try to infuse coffee with their local culture.
Rather than the common combination of coffee and sandwiches, Chongqing's coffee shops have creatively made coffee a companion for its popular local food, Chongqing Spicy Noodles, or Xiao Mian.
In Yuzhong District, there is a coffee shop called Miankaka which fully exemplifies cultural fusion. Located in a pedestrian zone centering around the Luohan Temple, the coffee shop offers a blend of buzzing life and tranquil Buddhism.
Inside the shop, the menu also blends noodles and coffee into different packages, such as a 22-yuan (about 3 U.S. dollars) package including Chongqing Spicy Noodles, Americano coffee, and a fried egg.
"This shop understands young people. Xiao Mian and coffee are both regulars in our daily lives. I am so happy to find them at one shop," said Song Ning, a 26-year-old customer.
Apart from creative matches, other coffee shops are also concentrating their efforts on the coffee flavor itself, tailoring the coffee to local people's preferences.
"Just like Chinese tea which can be made in different ways in other countries, so a foreign product like coffee can also have a local taste," said Long Ye, a 30-year-old founder of a local coffee shop called Wuyinmen.
Long opened his coffee shop in 2018, making it one of the earliest independent coffee shops in Chongqing, and initially incurred lots of misunderstandings, since the shop is located in an old neighborhood inhabited by lots of seniors.
"Since I used Chinese-style decoration, people tended to think this is a tea house rather than a coffee shop. However, this is also my aim, opening a cafe in a Chinese way," said Long. He creatively used teacups with lids and saucers to fill coffee and launched a special blend that combines coffee with the likes of Sichuan pepper and tea.
Tying his hair into a bun with a hairpin stabilizing it and wearing a Taoist-style outfit, Long talked in a very gentle tone and emitted a Zen vibe which he also tries to infuse into his coffee. "To me, coffee is a beverage that can make you physically and mentally comfortable. Thus, I hope my customers can also find a moment of peace while they are drinking my coffee."
Long added that nowadays, more and more customers are developing a love for coffee and know a lot about coffee quality. At the same time, the number of coffee shops has increased significantly in Chongqing. There were 4,000 coffee outlets in Chongqing in 2021, according to Tan Hua, head of the coffee roasting chamber of commerce in Yuzhong District.
On the site of the 2023 Chongqing International Coffee Festival, a type of coffee named Hotpot Base gained lots of attention from visitors. "We roasted two types of coffee beans, from Costa Rica and Colombia, to create a spicy, numb taste which is similar to the taste of Chongqing hotpot," explained Liu Bo, a 27-year-old former basketball athlete who is running a coffee shop named Jisui.
In addition to the special flavor, Liu also mounted his pour-over kit on a motorcycle, another symbol of this mountain city, which amplified its unique local feel. "A coffee shop, in my understanding, is like a spiritual museum. Now if I go to travel, the coffee shop is my first stop in that city. So I wish my coffee shop also can reflect the core elements of the city," said Liu.
Zhou Hui, a 32-year-old tourist from Shanghai, which is often dubbed as the coffee capital of China, had the same thinking as Liu. By visiting several coffee shops in Chongqing and attending the coffee festival, Zhou was amazed at Chongqing's coffee culture.
"Everything is nice. The coffee culture is similar to what we've experienced in Shanghai," said Zhou. ■