Beijing’s First Snowfall of the Season

Can you believe it’s February already and the first snowfall didn’t happen until last night? This is the first precipitation we’ve seen since October. It’s been extremely dry, and surprisingly sunny for the past few months. Many places in northern, central and eastern China are experiencing droughts this winter, the worst in 60 years.

View from 12th floor at 12 Suzhou St the morning after Beijing's first snowfall of the season.

View from 12th floor at 12 Suzhou St the morning after Beijing's first snowfall of the season.

Winter crops have been affected. The UN even issued a warning that global grain prices might rise in the spring if China’s crops fail and it has to start importing grain. We’ll see what happens come spring. I’m not sure how much this region relies on snow melt run off for its spring planting season.

Studying in a Coffee Shop

I’m currently volunteering part-time for Lotus while I study Mandarin here in Beijing. Part of the arrangement I have includes living in the office apartment. I think it’s always good to get out a bit instead of staying in the same place all the time. Besides going out to eat at night, when it’s time to study I like to go to one of the nearby coffee shops to crack open the books.

img_4698If you’re volunteering at Lotus or studying in the Small Class program, then you’re going to be in the Lotus neighbourhood quite a lot. If you like going to a coffee shop to study or surf the Internet, then this post is for you. There are actually quite a few coffee shops in the neighbourhood, and I’ve visited almost all of them. This will give you the low-down on which ones I think are best.

All the coffee shops around have free wireless internet access. They all sell coffee at roughly the same prices. That is, “fancy coffee” prices, about 5 USD/cup. There is no drip coffee, the most basic coffee around is an Americano and it costs just as much as it does back home.

img_4699My two picks for coffee shops are Lava Coffee and Monet Cafe. They both have a good atmosphere, free wireless internet, and are less than five minutes’ walk from the Lotus office. Most of the time there aren’t many customers so you’ll have no trouble finding a seat along with some quiet time for practicing your Chinese characters. Also, neither of them will charge you extra for cream. Yes, that’s right, some coffee shops charge extra for cream. Regardless, you’ll have to ask for extra cream, because every coffee shop serves coffee with a single creamer and single packet of sugar on the side, by default.

As an alternative to the “fancy coffee” places, you can also go to any KFC or McDonald’s and get a cup of drip coffee at ¼ the price of a coffee shop. Unfortunately fast-food joints lack the atmosphere, wireless internet and quiet you might need for studying. But they won’t charge you extra for extra cream. If what you’re looking for is cheap drip coffee, a fast-food joint might just be the thing.

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Click on the map to zoom in and see the location of these two coffee shops. If you come to Beijing before my time here comes to its end, then I can show you the way.