Sunday, 12 August 2012

the hunt for the perfect soy coffee [beijing edition]

When I first moved to Beijing I gave up coffee, on the grounds that it's difficult to find a good coffee in China, and impossible to find a soy coffee. I thought, I can do this for a year! I was wrong, and shortly after my second month began, I found myself trying to track down some sort of delicious coffee.

Part of the reason why I'm vegan is because I'm lactose intolerant, a(n at the time) distressing genetic quirk I picked up from my Chinese mother. Asian people have an increased propensity towards lactose intolerance! Chinese culinary tradition is well known for its soymilkyness! I can buy warm soy milk on my way to work for breakfast on cold winter mornings from little street stores! So you would think, given this, that finding a soy coffee in Beijing would not be that difficult.

Sadly you would be wrong.

four flat whites
My new go-to for a soy, and delightfully a soy flat white, is Serk cafe on 北新桥三条 (beixinqiaosantiao), a Melbourne-style cafe run by a Melbunnie, with bikes hanging from the ceiling and an awesome fitout. They even charge extra for soy milk, can you get more Melbourne than that?
It is, however, the only place in Beijing that you can buy a soy flat white (not even the New Zealand inspired Flat White Cafe does a soy flat), and I'm willing to put up with a lot for such a delight.

And you can bring your keep cup! However alas Serk is not open Mondays, and not open before 11am, so it is useless for an on my way to work coffee purchase.
bike cafe

Other than Serk, it's sadly lattes all the way. I go quite frequently to the Vegie Table on Wudaoying Hutong, where I can get the world's largest soy latte (or a latte with coconut milk, which is fun). They don't do takeaway but if you bring your own cup they'll whip something up for you. This coffee is nice enough but it always leaves me with a funny after taste.
latte with coconut milk
More frequently, though, I go to Starbucks for a soy latte in my reusable Starbucks cup (because oh, don't try to convince them you should be able to use your keep cup). This is fine and functional but not what one would call a coffee, more a coffee flavoured beverage. In Australia I don't drink coffee after lunch, but I can drink a Starbucks coffee as late as 5pm and still be fine to go to bed.

Starbucks is funny here, it's mostly considered a bit of a dessert place, the most popular drinks seem to be the ones with lashings of cream on the top, and I know of business people who take their clients to Starbucks for a bit of after business lunch dessert.

Don't go to Costa Coffee for a soy coffee. They use Asian soymilk, which is definitely not the right thing to use in a coffee.


Cindy said...

I've never heard Melbunnie before and I love it!

steph said...

Cindy it's a great word, I like it! :oD

Anonymous said...

that's funny about starbucks! how interesting! i actually see it as that too! #noncoffeedrinker :)