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Would you queue more than an hour for a coffee?

June 21, 2019

Hey Coffee, located in a mall near Huaihai Road E., has not only always been No. 1 on the Shanghai coffee ranking list on dianping.com since it opened, but it’s also the coffee shop with possibly one of the longest queues in Shanghai. The owner, Hou Jun, a Shanghainese born in the 1960s and a graduate of Nankai University, used to be a businessman.
He resigned to become a barista and opened the 10-square-meter coffee shop, selling Shanghai-style coffees he created himself.
When we arrived at the coffee shop at 10:20am, there was already a queue of about 10 people, most there specifically to try the special coffees.
The most-ordered coffees are yogurt espresso and coffee with alcohol, such as rice wine or Baileys. The owner likes to give coffee advice to his customers, that is one of the reasons why many people like this shop.
“Can you hold your liquor?” Hou asked a girl in front of us when she ordered a Baileys latte. “There’s a lot of Baileys in it, be careful not to get drunk,” he said.
If you order too many kinds of coffee just to try, he will refuse to take your order, “because you are wasting the drinks.”
And there is a menu for frequent customers, named “Hey Special.” The most famous is salt soda American coffee. Customers can also come up with their own ideas for a special cup — only if you are on his list of repeat clients. As expected, he refused our request for a “Hey Special.”
The coffee shop is really very small. There are only two small stools inside, and a small tea table about 10 centimeters wide. After ordering, you have to stand in the middle of the stools and the small table, so it’s hard to sit.
Most of the coffees are convenient to take away, but the most famous one, the yogurt espresso, filling a clear plastic cup, looks good but is really easy to spill.
We know that because we spilled ours on the floor, barely 10 seconds after getting it.
The Coffees
Yogurt Espresso — 30 yuan (US$4.3)
The yogurt espresso is a powerful and well-structured specialty, with full bodied espresso and creamy Greek-style yogurt.
Flat White (iced) — 33 yuan
The cafe’s iced version of a flat white is made with iced espresso cubes and steamed milk.
Hot Rice Flavor Latte — 22 yuan
This is another localized specialty, with the noticeable aroma of rice milk and a rounded sweetness.
What’s the verdict?
This café has carved out a punchy little niche for itself in this increasingly caffeinated city. It’s nice to see local coffee-making efforts to develop novel offerings by incorporating Shanghai elements.
Good to know before you go:
The Vibe:
In the basement of an old office building, this compact cafe has no fancy trimmings and only two seats. Yet what it lacks in square footage it makes up for in coffee-making nous. The owner is friendly and keen to impart his passion for coffee to a receptive fan if there isn’t a long queue.
Who goes:
This place has become quite trendy recently among people who seek something different to the standard coffee options.
Language:
The menu is in both Chinese and English.
Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday, 9:30am to 6pm (closed on Thursdays)
Address:
B1, 500 Jinling Rd E. (Ya Long International Plaza), Huangpu District