During our cycle tour through China we spent a month in Shanghai while I taught yoga and we explored the city. Right away, as I always do in a new city, I searched out the best coffee Shanghai had to offer.
In November 2013, there were really only a couple of places in the city to buy coffee beans – Sumerian Coffee and Café de Volcán on Yonkang Lu. Volcán is very good and they introduced us to Strictly Cookies, for which I will be eternally grateful. But then… then I went to Sumerian Coffee.
The small café, which opened in 2011, is on South Shaanxi Road (Shaanxi Nan Lu). It is a buzzing space, with Dou Dou and Burrito, the house dogs, often holding court (sometimes in adorable doggy costumes).
Sumerian is run by two dudes, a Canadian and an American, who brought their love of small batch coffee to China in a way China had yet to experience. These guys are the forefront of craft coffee in China.
Alas, since I first went there a couple of years ago, Sumerian has transformed from Hidden Gem to bona fide hotspot.
Sumerian is quickly building on its success and now provides coffee and training for some of the swankiest restaurants and hotels in Shanghai (Maya, The Kerry Hotel, Hunter & Gatherer to name a few). It can also be found at gourmet grocers and is served by Pret A Manger China.
They also recently opened a bar, Dogtown. It’s next to Sumerian and specializes in craft and small-batch beer and smoked meats. You can also buy Sumerian coffee on Taobao and Sherpa will deliver it right to your Shanghai door.
Most recently they’ve expanded their boiling and baking bagel business into their latest venture, Boom Boom Bagels, a bagel restaurant on Anfu Lu that I cannot wait to visit when I go back in October.
Lucky for us, Sumerian has still managed to retain its gem-like qualities and remains my favourite place for a coffee in Asia.
Spend the day working on your laptop or come in for morning coffee and a bagel. However long you spend here, you will leave with a smile on your face having just enjoyed delicious gourmet coffee in a fun, friendly, welcoming setting.
What’s So Great About It?
These guys know their stuff. Owners Dave and Adam train their staff to be incredibly knowledgeable about the coffee they sell and they are two of the friendliest faces you could ever encounter.
They buy many of their beans direct from the growers and have even sourced a fantastic Pu’er (Chinese) coffee. They also train the staff of restaurants who will be serving their coffee not just how to brew it properly, but also about the Flavor Wheel, different roasting techniques, and proper presentation.
And the coffee!
It’s exceptional – and that is not something I say lightly. They work directly with the farmers and they put a level of care and attention to detail into their work that surpasses anything else I’ve experienced in the Chinese coffee world – it’s up there with my all-time favourite coffees around the world. When the barista brings over your freshly ground beans so you can smell them before your coffee is brewed, you know you’re in good hands.
As if that isn’t enough, when we were finally leaving Shanghai I came in to buy my favourite beans for the road. They had just run out, so Adam offered to roast some for me then and there (this was when the beautiful blue Diedrich roaster was still in the café). I came back after lunch to warm, toasted beans to take on the road.
How to Get There
Sumerian Coffee is at 415 Shaanxi Bei Lu, Shanghai, China.
Use metro station Jing An Temple or West Nanjing Road/Lu.
From West Nanjing Lu metro station walk west on Nanjing Lu until you get to South (Nan) Shaanxi Lu. Turn right up Shaanxi and walk across West (Xi) Beijing Lu. Sumerian is just past Beijing Lu.