The first impression of Café del Volcán is that it is a simple coffee bar for folks who are into coffee beans
as well as those who just want a good cup. After sitting down with co-owner and co-founder Nils, I discovered it is that and much more.
Café del Volcán Back Story:
The team at Café del Volcán is serious about their business. They have titles like "Roastmaster". There is a Coffee Club you can join to talk coffee. There are newsletters.
You enter the tiny shop on Yongkang Road and are immediately struck by the aroma of delicious, roasted coffee beans. I heard a story once on NPR about caffeine testing showing that just the smell of coffee can have that rousing effect. That is to say that just walking into Café del Volcán makes you feel more awake.
Co-founder Nils was originally in the coffee delivery business but longed to open a coffee boutique and by serendipitous circumstances teamed up with a fifth-generation coffee growing Guatemalan family who cultivates their coffee on the side of a volcano (thus Volcán). That image alone should make you get over there and try some of their Guatemalan Santa Rosa.
Café del Volcán Mission:
There's a lot of room in the China market for good coffee as the taste for it has developed in the local population and the expat crowd grows tired of bad, overpriced coffee and mega-chains. What is lovely about Café del Volcán’s stated mission is that they want to make coffee accessible and enjoyable, not "scary or intimidating". We all know those places. I was at a coffee shop once where they refused to give me milk! I want my coffee how I want it!
Café del Volcán's plan to take over the world of coffee in Shanghai is simple. First, they aim to draw people in with their inviting atmosphere and friendly, knowledgeable staff. Then they hope to introduce folks to their coffees. Their final strategic aim is to let people know that they can make great coffee at home. Folks don't need fancy machinery; a French press and a grinder will do. No grinder? No problem, you can order your specific grind* and Café del Volcán will even deliver to your doorstep.
*Their one refusal is to grind for espresso machines. Nils insists that the flavor will disappear too quickly and then why bother with their incredible beans? The Café del Volcán team recommends having a grinder at home and you can visit their shop for all your home-grinding needs.
Types of Coffees:
You'll have to check periodically on their website, but at the moment they have a few single origin coffees as well as their own blends.
Their signature coffee is the Guatemalan Santa Rosa. They also sell Ethiopian Sidamo, Sumatran Mandheling and Yunnan Baoshan coffees. For espresso drinkers, they have created their own Italian Espresso Blend.
Drinking Café del Volcán Coffees:
I'm one of those cappuccino
-all-day types. And while I don't do sugar, I usually gag at the thought of a cup of black coffee – although it has been something to which I occasionally aspire. Nils coaxed me into trying a black cup of their Guatemalan Santa Rosa coffee and I must admit, it was divine. It was very smooth, very rich and oily and fully aromatic but not the least bit bitter or harsh. I'm not saying I'm a convert, but it was a really enjoyable drink for someone who, as I stated above, likes her coffee how she likes it.
I like to think about the gift angle as visitors to China are always trying to find unique things to bring back to family and friends. Tea is an obvious choice but I’m starting to buy Yunnan coffee for my friends who are into coffee. Café del Volcán’s coffees are all immaculately, gorgeously packaged with information cards about the coffee included. A bag of whole Yunnan coffee beans might be a terrific gift to bring home to friends.
80 Yongkang Road near Xiangyang Road | 永康路80号近襄阳路
Shanghai's former French Concession
Hours of Operation:
Monday-Friday 8am-8pm; Saturday & Sunday 10am-6pm
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.