The Coffee of Xian and the Best Haircut in the World

Coffee is not something that really features in one’s thoughts about China given that it’s the land of tea and history and copious other distractions.  However, we have been known to be stubborn brats in our coffee addiction and seek it out regardless with unsurprisingly mixed results.  A day in Xi’an when we had nothing in particular in mind to do, somehow the idea came to go on a mission and try to discover if an independent coffee scene existed in the city.  Or any kind of coffee scene really.

This bizarre idea MAY have been inspired by a late night beverage the previous night at the hotel cafe.  After Dan’s usual stubborn insistence that everyone in the world should know how to make a flat white (it’s an antipodean thang but no matter how much we travel it’s the one thing he refuses to adapt to!), his then usual peeved attitude about (a) the fact they’ve never heard of the damn drink; and (b) that funnily enough they won’t let him teach them how to make one or jump behind their machine himself, he then sighed deeply and ordered a latte.  The look on his face when the “latte” was delivered to the table was priceless.

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He poked around in disgust for a bit then managed to gulp it down.  Verdict – not great!


Accordingly, the idea to fill a day wandering the streets of Xi’an to look for a better coffee was born.

A quick Google revealed a promising start, a little cafe named ‘Hello Coffee’.  Hello!


Hidden up the stairs on the inside of a Subway store, this little place was a beautiful, homely little cafe, reminiscent of a comfy lounge.  Books and couches filled up the, sadly empty, space.

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The Americano that Dan ordered was average to say the least but we kinda forgave it for the lovely setting.

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Having no de-caf option for the pregnant half, H-J ordered an oh-so-Asian green tea latte, which was just as they should be – creamy, slightly sweet, and green-tea-y.



Not a bad start but onwards we must trudge.  The next place on our radar came up under the listing “independent cafes” – however, when we arrived we were faced with an absolute behemoth of an establishment with branding that looked suspiciously like a chain…but never ones to judge a book by its cover, we ventured into what was possibly the largest and blingiest ‘little’ cafe we’d ever seen.

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This place had chandeliers dripping from every corner of the ceiling and a bookshelf larger than our entire Hong Kong apartment.  It even had  trees sprouting from its midst.

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It’s big right?!  Which would make you think they would have dozens of waiters bustling around the busy space…but one poor guy seemed to be doing the running for all the tables, seemed to be the only one to speak English, and was incredibly sweaty.  It didn’t help that he spent half the time chasing a random dog around the cafe, scooping it up in his arms, depositing it outside and then repeating the exercise untold times as the dog kept wandering back into the cafe.  Dog stopped just long enough to pose perfectly beside out table before taking off to make Sweaty Man take flight yet again.  Poor dude.

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No de-caf AGAIN made Dan solely responsible for the coffee tasting.  And no, it wasn’t a flat white, just another Americano much to his disappointment

Apparently, it wasn’t even worth a photo it was so bad but he chugged it down and it was onto the next one.

Things turned slightly weird at this point as stumbled upon was a Mr. Bean Cafe.  This really made no sense at all.  Did Mr. Bean even drink coffee?  Does China have a weird soft spot for Mr. Bean?   We decided it would be rude not to venture in and do some research.


The man himself stared eerily from every crevice of the place.

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Without H-J to bear some of the brunt of the challenge, by this stage of the game poor Dan was starting to shake from a bit too much coffee in such a short time-frame.  An espresso this time around and the sudden ponderance of why he hadn’t just done that for the first few rounds especially in light of the fact that he’d already been chugging bottomless coffees at the breakfast buffet we started the day with.

Dan was mental by this point.


And the coffee had all been, to put it politely, shit.  We gave up and slinked back through the streets of Xi’an toward a tuk-tuk.  Wouldn’t you know it, there just happened to be a random food fair happening?!  Things were looking up.  Year of the Horse Represent!

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Yeah there was food and meat and stuff but what really caught our eye was the sight of what potentially was the Best/Worst haircut we’d ever seen.  We did the renegade-creepy-pretending-to-take-a-touristy-holiday-snap-of-each-other kinda thing in order to capture its essence for eternity.  2014-02-02 16.43.03

This kid has major street cred for rizzle.  Would YOU mess with that?!

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We potentially should have mentioned this in our Impulse Purchasing in China blog but Dan did make one more beverage related buy for the day.  With caffeine addled brain and dehydration setting in, his hankering for something refreshing led his beady little eyes to this guy, scooping ladlefuls of red, bit-floaty tea stuff into a giant sippy cups.

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And with that we trotted happily off into the sunset with one more piece of random crap to add to the collection.

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Coffee = lose.  Day = WIN!

Categories: China, Coffee, TravelTags: , , , , , , , ,


  1. Has Dan stopped shaking yet? 🙂 I find that every other nationality (apart from the British and Irish) absolutely adore Mr Bean for some odd reason!

    • Yeah we were surprised when we heard some of our tiny students here mention Mr. Bean…apparently there’s a cartoon that’s all the rage in Asia! First time we’ve come across this ‘phenomenon’ in our travels though..Dan has recovered nicely. His default setting is actually 98% caffeine so he’s well practiced at the art of indulgence 🙂

  2. The first cafe looks SO cute but the pictures of the second one pretty much blew my mind. Trees growing through the building — what?! Insane. As for Mr. Bean, before I scrolled down the photos, I thought well maybe Mr. Bean is Mr. (Coffee) Bean. But no — the cut outs made me laugh. Sounds like a good adventure though! I love the dedication to coffee. =)

  3. And now we see just where you purchased those Mr Bean coffee cups and saucers. Super bizarre.

    Speaking of Mr. Bean, I was on an overnight train in Indonesia once and they played Mr. Bean videos all night long. The whole country (circa 2003) seemed to adore Mr. Bean.

  4. Sounds like you have a perfect business opportunity.

  5. In the second photo haircut kid looks as if he has some dinky kebab earings! They love Mr Bean in Jordan as I recall and I remember on a very stormy trip we made out to the Great Barrier Reef lots of Chinese and Japanese tourist were enjoying Mr Bean videos in the cafe while puking politely into paper bags

  6. Big Man goes demented in England about coffee too – he can’t understand why a “small” is about half a litre when all he wants is a decent little black coffee 😉 Scary haircut indeed and how funny about the Mr Bean cafe… 🙂

  7. Flat whites were the best part of my life when I lived in Aus and NZ!

  8. OMG. If I had that much coffee I’d probably vomit. Good coffee in Asia = unattainable. Mr. Bean Care = so random. That kid’s haircut = gangsta hardcore. Sweaty waiter chasing around cute fluffy dog all day = awesome.

  9. Spelling error! Mr. Bean CAFE!!!!! Haha!

  10. Lol, laughing indeed and getting the shakes reading this, in a good way! I remember the first time I visited the outer country and my brother told me all the beer came warm. Thought he was joking! Nope…I felt the same way Dan did when he saw that latte.

    Ps, HJ, you chose best! Green tea lattes are my addiction when I’m overseas in HK or Shanghai 😉

  11. Maan Coffee! I miss that place! Your instinct is right though, it is a chain. Got 3 stores in Beijing when I used to live there. And congrats on the pregnancy! 🙂

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