“Coffee is simple. You see everyone (in Beijing) with all this technology and they charge 10 bucks because of it, and people buy it. Coffee isn’t meant to be this complicated.”

Simon has been drinking joe for almost two decades and decided to leave his secure position as a trader to delve into the world of another organic matter – coffee. From humble DIY days with his minuscule roaster, buying beans from suppliers on Taobao and Alibaba – “you have to try a lot of beans” – and roasting each batch to almost obsessive perfection, Simon has now upgraded to an industrial machine while culling his supply pool. “I’m trying to find the most stable supplier,” he says.

On his refined menu at Fresh Bean are eight specialty coffees, some hailing from the jungles of Columbia, others from the wild Kenyan grasslands and tropical Hawaiian climes. His menu clearly states whether it’s a half or full city roast, as well as if it is bitter or sour. “That’s the most important (thing). If they like sour they have more choice because many specialty coffees have a sour profile.” Flavor is the golden rule for Simon, and he extracts it perfectly across a range of brewing techniques. For cold weather sit down for a 300ml pour-over (from RMB 25) and when the sun comes back indulge in a cold brew (from RMB 38).

As China embraces coffee, more and more attention is being paid to the nuances of different beans found both abroad and in the southern areas of Yunnan, where the historical influence of tea is giving way to new drinking habits. Simon says there’s one big difference between mainland drinkers and everyone else. “In the US people drink coffee like a habit. They need it. But they don’t have a very good taste for coffee. In China I think people do want the habit, but they also want better taste. I want to create a market that is better in both supply and quality. I want to form a habit with taste.”

Fresh Bean
Daily 10am-10pm (summer), Daily 10am-8pm (winter). 60 Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng District (157 0151 8397)
东城区五道营胡同60号
150m west of Yonghegong (Line 2, Line 5)

Photos: Uni


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