Sustaining a coffee addiction in China

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Long distance travel does away with most routines – bed times, meal times, work and rest times – but my morning (and often afternoon) coffee is one habit I’ve been reluctant to let go. South America was generally happy to sustain my addiction, especially the likes of Colombia. China, not known for its coffee drinking culture, promised to be a bigger challenge.

Hong Kong eased us into China in many ways, and I was thrilled to indulge in a Wellington flat white at one of Fuel Espresso’s two Chinese stores (the other, in Shanghai, I didn’t visit, but I was comforted to know of its existence). An indulgence it was. At 49 HK dollars it was almost twice it would cost at home.

On the mainland we found an emerging coffee drinking culture. Major chains were popular in larger cities – and sporting a Starbucks cup an obvious status symbol. Some even had independent cafes serving decent espresso coffee. But at around 30 yuan for a cappuccino (NZD $6) prices were way out of step with other food and drink in China. My latte could buy a basic meal for four people. Tea, incidentally, was also surprisingly expensive.

So what did I do in between expensive coffee splurges? China had an array of bottled drinks that extended to about 15 types of iced tea and at least half a dozen of iced coffee. These coffees sustained my addiction while providing welcome refreshment from the heat. My favourite was the trusty Nescafe for 4 yuan a pop.

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