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amandagmu

Bring Or Buy A Decent Coffee And Espresso Machine?

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amandagmu

As a self-professed coffee snob, who lived in France a long time and currently lives in the San Francisco bay area (e.g. home of organic fresh-roasted coffee beans), I need to know how far along the coffee market has come in China since I last lived in Beijing in 2005. At the time, I felt the coffee/espresso situation in Beijing was basically dire. Generally that remained true when I lived in 2008 in Taipei. There were a few cafes that served lavazza or illy $$$$$$ and shops typically only sold standard drip coffee machines and small french presses. I was lucky to have my large french press on me, but finding fresh roasted coffee beans was impossible. Carrefour had some of that vacuum-packed stuff that was OK.

So, with that said, what I'm thinking of doing for my year in Beijing is investing in a home machine that will provide me with what I want and need. I'm familiar with both Nespresso or Senseo and I'd like to buy one for next year. (My husband and I have one, and my former roommate has a nespresso... unlike Starbucks they have the crema on top and the shot doesn't taste burnt.) I'd like to save money and time from traveling all over the city for a cup of coffee everyday that doesn't taste like brown burnt water.

My questions are:

1) should I buy one of these machines and bring it with me, or have people seen one of these two brands in Beijing? (I ask because it looks like Senseo may have had a failed venture in the Chinese market a few years back)

2) do coffee pods exist in Beijing that I can buy and use in these machines if I bring the machine, or should I count on having my husband mail or deliver (via suitcase) everything to me?

3) does anyone in Beijing roast coffee beans? Yes, this is doubtful, but I can always hope, right?

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flameproof

I topic close to my heart! In most places the coffee quality varies between "that's coffee?" and "undrinkable". For me a place that sells drinkable coffee is i.e. McDonalds (consider the price too!). I am not a big Starbucks fan either, still drinkable though.

I am not sure about places that do their own roasting (but would not be surprised if BJ has a few), but I know that METRO has a good range of imported coffee beans.

For coffee makers, I am more on the drip side. But I know you can get Bialetti originals and lookalikes in better sorted shops (again, METRO...).

Buy or bring..... considering that imports usually much more expensive in China I would bring a small one.

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HedgePig

Can't help you directly but:

(1) In Shanghai there are some places roasting. The only one I've tried was very disappointing. Maybe you'll have better luck in Beijing.

(2) Illy is widely available in Shanghai and therefore I imagine in Beijing too.

(3) Have you considered roasting your own beans? It does take a bit of time and can be quite smokey but is actually surpisingly easy. You also can get good results from simple equipment - I used a wok for 2 years after moving to China before I finally got hold of a home roaster. The key is good qiality green beans - and a good grinder.

I order beans from sweetmarias.com (They happen to be Oakland!) Despite the relatively high shipping costs, it works out no more expensive than buying locally. By the way sweetmarias is a GREAT site just to browse if you are interested in coffee. There is a HUGE amount of information buried there.

The only problem with home roasting is that you'll become even more snobbish and discriminating.

Regards

HedgePig

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adrianlondon

Nespresso machines are small, easy to use (I have one) and the nespresso coffee, despite being Nestle, is actually pretty good and I love being able to switch from a strong Italian espresso for one cup, a decaf for one friend, and a milder one for someone else.

I also have an old espresso machine which I have with me now (working abroad in Switzerland; left the nespesso in London) as it's just me here, and I like picking my coffee, grinding it, and doing all the tamping stuff by hand. However, I miss being able to keep swapping coffee "flavours" so easily.

You can get nespresso capsules in Beijing and Chendu (according to their website). I'm sure they deliver anywhere, as they do in other countries.

Northern Thailand has some excellent coffee which I've not found in the UK, so if it were me and I was going to China alone, I'd buy a cheap espresso machine (they must sell them in China) and a grinder. I wouldn't bother with self-roasting but maybe that's cos I'm a bit lazy.

If you like to wake up with a strong double espresso, have an americano type coffee during the day, and mabe a decaf at night, then I'd get a nespresso.

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roddy

Have a look on Taobao.com for 浓缩咖啡机 or something - that'll show you what's available in country. Then look for Taobao sellers in Beijing, they often also have actual shops. Something like this?

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natra

I brought a coffee maker with me to China when I went last. Despite plugging it into a decent converter, it was fried after one use. Bringing your own machine may prove to be a waste of money. <_< Be careful, at least.

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flameproof

I brought a coffee maker with me to China when I went last. Despite plugging it into a decent converter, it was fried after one use. Bringing your own machine may prove to be a waste of money. <_< Be careful, at least.

Well, USA has 110V and China has 220V power outlets....

Taobao is interesting, just had a search for 咖啡豆 ... and there are coffee roasters too: 咖啡烘焙

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flippant

I work with coffee almost every day. In fact, I just came back from a trip to the US where I toured all the major (and a few minor) specialty roasteries and shops, so I'm updated on the American situation as well.

In my opinion, having lived in Beijing for half a year in 2009, there is no coffee scene. It's still mostly italian beans, still well-intentioned but unqualified preparation. Nobody knows what to look for in coffee or what to achieve, so naturally it becomes impossible to get there.

Home roasting is very difficult, and impossible to do in a wok if you want anything even approaching specialty level. Nespresso does a lot of good on the farm level, working with individual farmers and coops, but unfortunately, what ends up in the cup is a shadow of what the produce itself was capable of. Importing roasted coffee is completely unsustainable on so many levels on a bigger scale, so I suppose the only thing to do it start drinking tea;)

However, considering the relative price shops are able to sell coffee for in that city, running a micro roastery should be feasible, provided you're willing and able to navigate the hurdles of Chinese bureaucracy (and have the know-how).

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amandagmu

Thank you everyone -- especially for the tips on Nespresso machines and pods I can buy in Beijing. I know it won't be as good as the organic fresh roasted blends I get from my hometown guys (shameless plug, but seriously if you ever get a chance -- they are AMAZING).

I'd rather not take my chances: I'll bring the french press and count on finding a Nespresso machine to buy once I get there. At worst, I'll temporarily be buying illy for the press while I search for the machine or order it from that site you posted.

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cui ruide

Beijing does have folks roasting: http://www.arabicaroasters.com/ (Haven't tried them myself, but friends think it's fine).

Also around Gulou, you can find lots of cafes with very good coffee (most coffee snobs seem to rave about Cafe Zarah).

Also around Gulou you can find some of the cafes selling "Shangri-La Farms Coffee"--coffee from Yunnan, which I've been a fan of ever since I had Salvador's in Kunming. I'm making my way through a bag now, and am relatively pleased. Read more here: http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/articles/blogs-beijing/the-dish-bj/interview-shangrila-farms-sahra-malik-talks-about-coffee-roasting-in-yunnan-and-why-you-shouldnt-drink-decaf/

I've also heard the "Sculpting in Time" cafe chain has a barista school, so maybe things will be improving...

Sorry, don't ever get espressos or anything fancier than an americano myself, so I can't speak to that.

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roddy

I'm no aficionado, but Zara does do a nice coffee - and actually a very good way of sourcing your raw materials might be to speak to the people making the stuff there and elsewhere. Quite a trek from where you'll be though, Amanda.

There will be Sculpting in Times nearby (you're never far from one nowadays) but they probably get points for being decent and consistent across time and branches rather than excellence.

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Charles Barkley

Why don't you try home roasting? No need to do it in a wok--buy a whirley pop popcorn maker and a portable gas stove (20$ or so each, you can skip the stove if you figure out a way to ventilate indoors), then roast outside. All you'll need aside from that is a colander and a fan, both very cheap.

You can easily buy green coffee beans online from sites like Sweet Maria's. If you buy a 20 pound bag of green beans for 80$, you're set for a long long time.

Roasting info is easy to find online.

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jbradfor

FWIW, I checked, and your favorite coffee place does ship to China. $47.25 for 5 12 oz bags. Obviously cheaper per bag if you buy more, but then it's sitting around. USPS Priority Mail, which I think is 7-10 days. My favorite place also ships internationally.

One could certainly debate the morals of shipping coffee that much, but it is an option.

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amandagmu

FWIW, I checked, and your favorite coffee place does ship to China. $47.25 for 5 12 oz bags. Obviously cheaper per bag if you buy more, but then it's sitting around. USPS Priority Mail, which I think is 7-10 days. My favorite place also ships internationally.

One could certainly debate the morals of shipping coffee that much, but it is an option.

Ah, this is a huge relief to know! I hope my research money is enough to cover this necessary expense......

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tortue

I was surprised to see that Carrefour in Shanghai sells La Tazza d'Oro beans! If I remember correctly the price gap compared to what you pay in Europe was even way less than for other imported food...

Maybe there's also hope for BJ?

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