Updated: Apr 10, 2018
The Yellow Crane Tower
Wuhan’s coffee scene has grown rapidly in the last couple years. Where it was almost impossible to find specialty coffee, there are now oases popping up with surprisingly good espresso. This is what stood out most in my last visit to Wuhan. Where good espresso is lacking in Beijing, in Wuhan the local taste buds and preferences have aided in the development of flavoursome and balanced drinks that are not harshly sour.
Sesame and peanut flavours are favoured in Wuhan, with Reganmian (Hot Dry Noodles) being a staple breakfast. These dry noodles are covered in a sesame and peanut paste, garlic, a drop of vinegar and chilli oil. As such, this influence can be tasted in the espresso blends of the various roast cafes in Wuhan, using fewer Ethiopian beans and more from Colombia, Brazil and Guatemala. The result is a more nutty taste and caramel flavours. Roasting is slightly darker than in Beijing.
Wuhan is a very large and sprawling city, split into three main areas by rivers which were once cities in their own right; Hanyang, Wuchang and Hankou. Hankou is the more commercially developed, with a lion’s share of specialty coffee shops. Wuchang comes next in line, on the south side of the Yangtze River. This is scattered with universities and where your writer once opened a small coffee shop. Then there is Hanyang, on the north side of the Yangtze River with Hankou but divided by the Han River. This area is the least modern.
Firstly, be aware that many shops have the word coffee plastered on their windows and signs, but they are usually restaurants with poor imitations of Western food. Coffee here tends to be old, burnt, bitter and flat. If you’re lucky, independent shops sometimes serve Illy or Lavazza.
Moving onto the good stuff. One must-visit coffee shop is in the Jianghan area, Hankou. 1.Z Coffee is up on the 47th floor and by the river front, although the entrance to the building is a little hard to find. On a clear day there is a fantastic view of the Yangtze River and Wuchang, perfect for looking out with a coffee.
On 1.Z’s menu is two espresso blends (a light roasted and a darker) and a very extensive choice of pour over, serving coffee imported from Sprudge, Intelligentsia, Maruyama, Squaremile and Tim Wendelboe. The spot is also a training centre and roaster and so there’s plenty to see. Baristas are welcoming and friendly too.
1.Z with its Black Eagle on the 47th floor
Chinese flavours added to the coffee flavour wheel
Another area in Hankou with good coffee shops is Xibeihu, a modern lakeside development further away from the river. There are two coffee shops located in a courtyard called the Lemon Center. These are Wagon and Dream Coffee. Wagon has a brighter interior and more malt-like espresso. Dream is darker inside with a computer game theme. The area is good for eating too, with a variety of restaurants and bars.
It is slightly more difficult to find specialty coffee in Wuchang. One I would recommend is 3 Specialty Coffee. This shop can be found in Shuiguohu, the local government district of Wuhan. Once again, the nutty espresso is good and recommended in preference to their pour overs. It’s a relaxing place for a coffee with its bright interior, and the owner’s cat will sleep on your lap.
Further east in Wuchang is Guanggu Optics Valley, where you can find the new K11 centre. Inside is a ‘coffee museum’. As of now (2017) it’s pretty bare but Dear Deer Coffee is a worthwhile stop and more are expected to open up over time. There’s also a fairly well hidden cafe by Guanggu called Black and White.
Wuhan’s specialty coffee scene is certainly growing but still remains rather limited. For more information check out Wuhan Social, which has up to date local news on all happenings in the city including restaurants, bars and events.
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