BEIJING

Coffee & Drink

Coffee & Drink in Beijing

Tea, tea, and more tea! Some shops are in malls and others are stand-alone establishments. Whatever their location, always ask the price before ordering or else brace yourself for the most expensive egg-sized cup of tea in the world. You can experience different styles of tea ceremonies and tea tastings at tea housesespecially in the Qianmen area south of Tiananmen Square. These can range widely in quality and price. Some tea houses are really tourist traps whose main goal is to milk you of your money (See warning box). You can get a free tea demonstration at most Tenrenfu tea houses which are located throughout the city and at some malls. A private room or a quiet back table in a tea house with mid-range tea for two should cost ¥100-200. After an afternoon in such shops the remaining tea is yours to take home. Once tea is ordered, the table is yours for as long as you like.

As a tea-loving country and grower of much of the world's tea, coffee is not as easy to find but a taste for it—along with more expats dotted throughout Beijing—has seen more emerging middle class and students drinking it. For example, the city alone has 50 Starbucks locations. Most are situated around shopping malls and in commercial districts of the city. Other international chains such as Costa Coffee, Pacific Coffee and so on also have locations around Beijing. Coffee of varying qualities is also available in the ubiquitous Taiwanese style coffee shops such as Shangdao Coffee. These are usually located on the second floor of buildings and oftentimes offer Blue Mountain Styled Coffee, making places like restaurants seem a real bargain. Most coffee shops will offer wireless. Baristas in non-chain coffee shops may not be educated on how to make generally accepted espresso drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos. Espressos of Kaffa Cafe, a local coffee enterprise and coffee technical developing organization, usually taste better and are more consistent.

Chinese beer can be quite good. The most preferred beer in China is Tsingtao (青岛 Qīngdǎo) which can cost ¥10-20 in a restaurant, or ¥2-4, depending on size, from a street vendor, but in Beijing, the city's homebrew is Yanjing beer (燕京Yànjīng), and has a dominating presence in the city (Yanjing being the city's name from its time 2,000 years ago as capital of the state of Yan). Beer mostly comes in large bottles and has 3.1%-3.6 alcohol content. Both Yanjing and Qingdao come in standard (普通 pǔtōng) and pure (纯生 chúnshēng) varieties; the difference mainly seems to be price. Beijing Beer (北京啤酒 Běijīng Píjiǔ)is the probably the third most popular brand. Craft beers are also making an appearance in Beijing, with specialty beers found in various German-themed restaurants throughout the city, as well as Beijing's first dedicated microbrewery, Great Leap Brewing (大跃), located in East Beijing's charming hutongs.

Great Wall is the most popular local brand of grape wine. Wine made in China does not have a great reputation, though this is changing. Giving wine as a gift is not a common custom in most places in China and most people will not be accustomed to wine etiquette or appreciation (white wine is often mixed with Sprite). Imported red wines are usually of a better quality and can be found in big supermarkets, import good stores, and some restaurants.

The most common hard liquor is baijiu (白酒 báijiǔ), made from distilled grain (usually sorghum) spirits. It comes in a variety of brands and generally for very cheap prices (¥8 for a small bottle) and should be avoided if you want to have a clear mind for your travels on the next day. One famous local style is called Erguotou (二锅头 Èrguōtóu), which has about 40-60% alcohol content and is made by several companies. It should be noted that the local Erguotou is sold in gallon containers, often on the same shelf as water and with a similar price-range and indistinguishable colour. Care must be made not to confuse the two. Maotai (茅台Máotái), the national liquor, is one of the more expensive brands, and it used to cost about as much as an imported bottle of whiskey—but now it costs a lot more, from ¥1000-2000. Wuliangye (五粮液) is another high-end brands, costs around ¥1000. Due to its mild taste, Wuliangye might be a better option for first time baijiu drinker. A large selection of imported liquor can be found at most bars and big supermarkets. One should better buy expensive liquor (both domestic and imported) from big supermarkets in order to avoid fake ones.

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