Tea House vs Coffee Shop

I spent the night with my good friends in a tea house at Lujiazui in Shanghai. Tea house is becoming more and more popular in Shanghai, as in other areas in China. When more and more Starbucks appears, the business of traditional Chinese tea house is also booming.

For Starbucks, the typical charge range from 15 RMB for Coffee of the Day to 35 RMB for some newer coffee. For the tea house, however, the charge is typically 68 RMB, as the one we went to.

The tea house are typically very traditional Chinese building with Chinese decoration. Many move the interior or exterior decoration of ancient Chinese buildings from Shanxi, or Shaanxi. Although it is more expensive, but it includes many things – all kinds of fruit, a cup of nice tea that you can continue to refill water, and even includes noodles and small dishes, which makes a good option for dinner.

Many people get there to combine dinner and tea together and spend the night there. This is the kind of business I like – the typical Chinese way serving customers in China. They know their customers better. Although there are large percentage of people in Shanghai willing to try some new things (from aboard), the majority still prefer the cost-effective options like tea houses. It is an interesting phenomenon to see tea houses and coffee shops sit side by side at the Shanghai street.

46 thoughts on “Tea House vs Coffee Shop

  1. The Motley Fool has an interesting article on Starbucks in China: http://www.fool.com/News/mft/2005/mft05060913.htm

    Starbucks expects China to be its second biggest market, after North America. It is making strategic deals to gain marketshare. However, it may face competition from McDonalds “McCafe”!

    Time will tell if tea houses will be able to compete with the coffee onslaught. Personally, I like both Cafe Lattes and Chinese green tea, at different times for different reasons.

  2. Mr. Wang, When you wrote, “I spent the night with ___.” You might be thinking in Chinese.

    ‘I spent the night with -‘ sound like someone have slept —- for a night.

    Here are a few alternatives;

    * A few good friends of mine and I spent some time in a teahouse at Lujiazui in Shanghai last night.

    * A few good friends of mine and I went out last night in a teahouse at Lujiazui in Shanghai.

    * I met some of my good friends in a teahouse at Lujiazui in Shanghai last night.

    I enjoy your blogs very much! Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

  3. ILH

    In Chinese vocabulary there are only “day” and “night”, should JS uses “evening” instead of “night” and the sentence will have different touch.

    Appears ILH also thinking in Chinese!??


  4. Stephen; The problem is we do not know what hours they were there in the teahouse. If they were there between, let’s say, 11:00pm to 1:30 am, using the word ‘evening’ becomes inadequate.

  5. In Chinese vocabulary, there is NOT only “Day” and “Night”, but also

    “Morning”, “Noon”, “Afternoon”, “Evening”, “Midnight”, and many


  6. ILH,

    In attending a late night party, do you greet your friends with “good evening” or “good night”?

    Evening actually extended from dust to bedtime according to definition!


  7. JianShuo,

    I am pleasantly surprised by the emergence of tea houses in Shanghai. I consider it to be very traditional Chinese, almost unsuitable for a metropolis like Shanghai. In comparison with coffee house, especially Starbucks, their similarity would be that the westerners going to a tea house is somewhat like a Chinese going to a coffee house. trying to taste what the other culture has to offer. For Chinese going to tea house is also, in a way, similar to westerners going to a coffee house, to relax. If I understand correctly, dim-sum is a derivative from the tea house, in particular the tea house in GuangDong Province. In fact, I believe, the traditional name for dim-sum in Cantonese is “Yum-Qia” (drinking tea).

    I have a couple of questions regarding current tea houses in Shanghai. What does your 68 yuan cover, more than just a cup of tea and less than a whole dinner, I suppose? And, are there tea houses in more central areas such as JinAnShi. XuJiaHui, or HuaiHaiLu?

    I have just looked up the Webster Dictionary. “Evening” implies the last part of the day (you may read “day” here as waking hours). “Night” relates to darkness. By these definitions, evening and night might very well overlap with each other. However, in daily American usage I would say it is proper to interpret “night” as the time you spend in bed.



  8. I often go to starbucks at CITIC square. the cappuccino and ice Moche is nice.

  9. A few good quotes about tea~~~

    Tea es todo y tea es la vida!

    Tea is everything and tea is life!


    “The tea party is a spa for the soul. You leave your cares and work behind. Busy people forget their business. Your stress melts away, your senses awaken…”

    Japanese Proverb:

    “If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.”

  10. Both of coffee and tea are my favourites, so is any topic on these two.

    Here is my two cents early on (here and here ). I was particularly interested in the prices of Starbucks in China.

    Hope to meet more coffee-loving Chinese bloggers here in the future.

    BTW, ILH is right. When you say “… spend the night with…”, westerners will read it very differently (from what you mean). They are all envious of your experience last night now :-)

  11. can somebody tell me the tea house in Shanghai, do they serve ice tea in the summer?


  12. Hi Stephen,

    ILH didn’t say anything wrong, its you who made the mistake, its not “should JS uses evening instead of night” its “had JS used the word evening instead of night then the sentence would have had a different touch.” And according to the first definition in Webster, evening is the latter part and close of the day and early part of the night (this is the most widely accepted definition, not the bedtime).

    The other thing wrong about what you said was, there is no morning or evening in chinese which isnt true, and is not irrelevant to what ILH was saying. Because the word night had nothing to do with the misunderstanding, it is adding “spent” before night that made the difference. As ILH pointed out, Jianshuo could have also said “I met some of my good friends in a teahouse at Lujiazui in Shanghai last night”. And finally what if it is was really night as in after 12am or even 2 am?

    It wasnt the word night but the word structure that gave it a different meaning.

    My first impression when I read “I spent the night” was that he slept overnight at Lujiazui in Shanghai (weird as it might have been) and also not what Jilin misconstrued as “sleeping with someone”.

    Just my 2 cents


  13. Jason,

    Looks like the discussion has gone beyond the coffee and tea!

    Would Jason please tell me if I said anything wrong by suggesting JS to use “evening” instead “night”? Did I ever say “evening” is the bedtime? don’t quote my words out of context as everybody has his own writing styles. I am deplored to see open minded discussion has developed into battle of words.

    By the way, I don’t use or have a Webster!


  14. Ha guys, Stephen wants an open discussion now!

    BTW, Stephen, I don’t greet my friends with the words “Good evening”. I say “Ha Dude! What’s up!” and say it very fast.

  15. Jason, ILH + buster05

    I shall enjoy the fun should any one of you really want to do a battle of words!

    BTW, ILH you better learn how to speak proper English otherwise your friends may not understand you. buster05, how come you were muted since our last discussion?


  16. Well, I’m not from Shanghai, but Dunkin Donuts just raised the price of my Iced Coffee to two dollars.

  17. I’m really confused. First, Starbucks is known for having rather bad coffee. Maybe they don’t realize this in China, because coffee is relatively new to most consumers here, but in urban America and Europe, Starbucks is considered junk coffee.

    Secondly — tea houses are becoming popular in Shanghai ??! I’ve been here for a few years and I am still befuddled as to why it’s so hard to find tea houses here! Were they wiped out with the cultural revolution? I find there’s very few tea houses here. Maybe the definition of “tea house” is different — what you describe is more like a restaurant to me. I don’t consider places like Before Time to be a real tea house.

  18. I think hanshe(寒舍) tea house is nice. hanshe is in ganghui square or hengshan Road.(衡山路)

  19. Stephen,

    I suggest tea house of shanghai city:xiangzhang garden(香樟花园).the tea house have ice tea.

  20. I think Han-She would be a more modern-type tea house? I quite like that place! (No 10 Heng Shan Rd) (I believe it is a Taiwanese-style Tea house.)

    The fresh fruit tea there is pretty nice (although they don’t offer bottomless cups-you just get one pot) but it is served together with a complete meal and all for( approx.) no more than 55 rmb (for the whole set) The food is quite good! The only drawback is that there is no non-smoking section…so the air is not great.

  21. Hi Stephen,

    Let me quote you “Evening actually extended from dust to bedtime according to definition!” I didnt mean you were wrong in replacing evening with night, but that your grammar was wrong – “Should JS Uses”. Anyways, as ILH pointed out, what if it was really night? Once again, it wasnt the word night, just the structure.

    As for your comment “BTW, ILH you better learn how to speak proper English otherwise your friends may not understand you.” Trust me, no offense, but I think ILH speaks better english than you.

    I wouldnt bother with these posts, but everytime I read your post, it is either putting someone down about their english/ about how much you know about “North America”.

  22. Hello Shirley,

    Thank you for your advise, can you tell me where it is located.


  23. OK, guys.

    “…spend the night with…” usually means “…sleep with…” (please confirm this with your friends who are English native speakers).

    However, since Mr. Wang has clealy told the whole story, it should not cause any confusion in this case.

    To LL: here is one of the iced tea recipes:

    4 regular tea bags

    2 cups fresh cold water

    Ice cubes

    Sugar or other sweetner

    Lemon slices (optional)

    Personally, I would call it “suger water”.

    OK, I need go get a cup of Starbucks now. It’s sad that Miacheal doesn’t like it… but it’s OK.

    Happy sipping while debating!

  24. Good Evening, Stephen! I didn’t know I was been missed. Getting a little lonely out there?

    I was enjoying a nice cup of tea the whole time. You will not hear from me unless when things are getting out of hand.Until next time, I’m buster05.

  25. Stephen,

    I suggest tea house of shanghai city:xiangzhang garden(香樟花园).the tea house have ice tea.

    located: henshan Road 2,xiangzhang garden(English name:Fragrant Camphor Gargen)


  26. Good morning, buster05

    Iced beverage is always my favourite and obviously we have different taste!


  27. Good morning, Shirley

    Thank you for your advise, I shall try the ice tea as per your direction!


  28. Nobody noticed the sentence “Although it is more expensive, but it includes many things…”. Isn’t it typical Chilish? (Chinese-English) :) Since when ppl add “but” after “Although”?

    JS, to be honest, I prefer to read your Chinese blog rather than the English one.


  29. Yoghurt,

    Have you always written perfectly, Kido? Trust me, there are lots more you can learn from Mr. Wang than he can learn from you. It’s OK to point out things, but do it nicely!

  30. Good day, Shirley,

    I have tried the iced tea at Camphor Garden one hot late evening as per you suggestion.

    The place is nice, the ambience is friendly and the tea is cool……. and I had offered something outside of the menu.

    At any rate, it was a good treat! Thanx.


  31. I visited camphor Garden(tea house).I feel a little disappiont because the tea house is little dirty now.

    I was bitten by mosquito.

    I prefer to Monte carlo coffee bar.(located:No 381 Huaihai road(M), central Plaze 2F). It is clean.



  32. I am studying the coffee phenomenon in China and came across ur blog. I never been to a tea house in Shanghai, mainly because I have no idea where to go! Think you can recommend me a place or two, and I’ll treat you to a cup of tea?

    Are you a foreign student or a local student? Because a few of my friends are at Jiao Tong studying Chinese. Since you mention XJH, you go to school there?

  33. The only thing “the man who knows everything” really knows, is that he knows nothing at all.

    The subject is tea & coffee

  34. hello,Bela,

    I think wangjianshuo was graduated from Jiao Tong University.

    he is chinese.

    I suggest you go to starbucks coffee shop,or henshan road,there are many tea house at henshan road.


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