Rejoice! Another new establishment in our comfy, laowai, VPN-connected, hutong ghetto, and it's gloriously located on convenient Beiluoguxiang! Whatever could it be? A foreign friendly nail studio/hair salon and artisan cupcakery? An unpretentious greasy spoon Americana diner with grapefruit mimosas open for brunch? A Tibetan throat singing live house with fermented mare milk cocktails? Hopefully it's something good, or at least gimmicky, so we can commence lustily blanketing it with our Mao emblazoned cash.
Oh, never mind. It's another cafe.
Um... Can we have a Dongcheng-wide meeting to discuss what businesses should really be opening up? This is getting depressing. I love third wave, single-origin, fresh roasted coffee places as much as any sane human being, but overpriced, under-generous vanity cafes are the grey hair of new businesses. I imagine these owners are actually trying to make money with their places, but much like a Wudaoying vintage shop selling 450Rrmb rayon maxi dresses, no one's buying.
Alright. Let's talk about Voyage Cafe.
It's situated in some prime real estate. Really swanky digs on Beiluo. This is the second branch; Voyage Cafe's original location is in 798, dropped in that sea of mediocre pizza/club sandwich/flatwhite establishments that are always 10% full. They're still in soft opening, and so service was friendly albeit slightly confused. No customers were present, and the four people on staff looked terminally bored.
Interior is very well designed with lots of natural light, but it's so minimal. Clean lines and unvarnished wood tables can act as a canvas on which to apply character and unique touches, but Voyage doesn't have much of that. Also, it's disconcertingly quiet, like a library filled with corpses. When I tapped my table trying to unfold my giant legs, every staff member glanced over, silently judging me over about three kuai worth of coffee that splashed to the side. It's a silent temple of overpriced beans.
Coffee time! I selected a pour over-recommended by the handsome proprietor, the “Cherry Red” (35Rrmb), which is apparently a fair trade Ethiopian bean. Prices vary, with most single origin roasts under 50rmb. An espresso blend is also available.
Lots of process with brewing the coffee, even though it's the simple pour over method, and it's done with a great deal of heart. But like many of these third wave coffee places in Beijing, they're mercilessly ungenerous with their beans. Why withhold caffeine like there is a worldwide shortage and price it like endangered animal parts?
Hmm... It's got a lovely floral character, but it's brewed far, far too weak. Just look at this color. It's got a “bellywash” hue. Let me get in closer:
Come on, guys. Lighter brews are good for tasting and all, but this is coffee, not goddamn English breakfast tea.
What else? No food menu. They had only one edible option, which was an honestly very delicious, mascarpone rich tiramisu (35rmb) that I gobbled up greedily.
They also sell beans to go in packets of 120 grams each, starting at 48rmb. Firstly, who buys such a darling, tiny amount of coffee? Secondly, several quality local roasters sell 500 grams at 100-120rmb, making Voyage Coffee double the price of these places. They're priced like fucking Phoenix toenails.
The Take-Away: So the verdict? Naw... I'll pass. Kind of depressed about this place. Maybe they can iron out the kinks, but in the meanwhile, I can't recommend it. Voyage elsewhere, loyal readers.
Voyage Coffee is at 80 Beiluoguxiang. Open daily from 9am to 10pm.