In the 2020 Chinese comedy film Coffee or Tea?, three young friends limp away from the pressures of city life in Beijing to a rural village in Yunnan, where they realize that the same soil that produces some of the best teas on the world can also produce incredible coffee beans. However, while their attempts at starting a coffee business are played for laughs, coffee has become serious business in Yunnan. Tea still rules the province, but the sudden boom of boutique cafés in Kunming over the past years is proof that coffee is shaping up to be a serious rival.
Unlike buzzy, big-city cafés where customers refill on coffee just to keep up with their hectic schedules, Kunming’s cafés retain the famous dolce vita attitude that Yunnan is known for. Here, baristas painstakingly craft cups of coffee, often with local beans and ingredients, for customers to savor in delightfully idiosyncratic surroundings. There are so many charming cafés in Kunming, especially in areas like Wuhua District near Cuihu Lake, it’s possible to suffer from choice overload. However, when it comes to both coffee quality, atmosphere, and aesthetics, any serious coffee lover has to visit at least a few of the ones below.
The serene Zhuyincenjin is almost a shock to the senses when you find it. You walk down a nondescript alleyway only to see it give way to an ancient-looking brick wall and gate, through which a serene Chinese-style garden magically appears right before your eyes. Grab one of their single origin coffees brewed with local beans and sit in the garden area to enjoy Yunnan’s “eternal spring” weather or lounge inside to enjoy the artwork by local artists. Zhuyincenjin is also a creative hub and hosts regular gallery shows and art events—you might walk away with a piece of art along with your caffeine fix. 40 Wenlin Street, Wuhua District; phone 0871-63323510
Guangzong No. 3
Don’t be surprised when the carefully chosen vintage details of Guangzong No. 3—a manual sewing machine used as a table, the lattice wall panels, exposed wooden beams—make you feel like you’ve been transported to the 1970s. It feels like you’re visiting the house of a relative with a delightfully eclectic taste in design, and it’s impossible not to stay for hours on the cozy rooftop terrace. However, Guangzong No. 3 is more than just a nostalgic setting: coffee is serious business here, and the talented baristas’ focus on making pour over coffee has earned them plenty of fans. Coffee beginners will especially appreciate their advice on different types of beans, including some of their rare bean selections. 3 Guangzong Lane along Wenlin Street, Wuhua District; phone: 0871-65338312