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May 31, 2022

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One small cup of coffee, one giant leap for Shanghai

As the reopening of Shanghai enters the final stretch after a COVID-19 resurgence brought the normally bustling metropolis to a standstill, Sheng Li has returned to the post that she has never missed more.

“It’s so wonderful to be back at this familiar store and reconnect with the community and customers again by making cups of coffee,” said the manager of the Starbucks store on Shanghai’s Huaihai Road W.

Sheng said the first cup of coffee after the work resumption symbolizes a big step. After several months of a tough fight against Omicron, the megacity of 25 million declared on May 17 that all its 16 districts had cut off community transmission of COVID-19.

Shanghai was gradually reopening commercial outlets from May 16, with the resurgence under control.

The store Sheng works at resumed operation on the day as Starbucks, along with many other restaurants and coffee shops in the city, restarted delivery and takeout services in downtown areas.

Incomplete statistics show Shanghai, a city at the forefront of China’s boom in coffee consumption and related business, boasts more than 7,000 coffee shops, with Starbucks alone having over 900 stores. The city is currently home to the world’s largest number of Starbucks stores.

The coffee giant announced in 2018 that it aims to have 6,000 stores in China by 2022. Starbucks said recently that despite the epidemic, it will continue to work on the plan as promised.

As of Monday, nearly 20 Starbucks stores in Shanghai’s 12 districts had reopened, covering downtown and suburban areas. Sheng said she has been fully occupied these days as expected.

“Our store is adjacent to a subway station. Though it’s small, it has certain geographical advantages,” she said, adding that as part of the city’s public transport network resumed operation on May 22, the demand for takeout coffee among residents in nearby communities and office workers who have returned to work has further increased.

The work resumption of Starbucks, Peet’s and other well-known chains has boosted the confidence of those in the coffee industry.

“It’s such good news for upstream suppliers,” said Peng Ziyuan, who is still engaged in a coffee bean wholesale business in Shanghai, despite challenges brought by logistics delays.

“In recent years, China’s domestic coffee industry chain has become more complete. With the gradual smooth flow of logistics, relevant factories in the Yangtze River Delta and coffee bean producers in southwest China’s Yunnan Province will also benefit,” Peng added.

“Drinking coffee is actually a small thing. But as every small thing in Shanghai runs conveniently and smoothly, the city will not be far from normalcy,” said Tan Congcong, owner of Shanghai Tan Coffee.


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