Before Ningbo was awash in cute little coffee places, there stood but a few independent shops, and even fewer coffee roasters. Ancient Coffee in Laowaitan is one of a small handful of places in this city that has withstood the test of time.
Rather than decoration or fancy machinery, Ancient Coffee is centered around just one thing: great coffee. And cats. So two things. But the coffee! Roaster and Manager Tony Wang is a veritable veteran of the coffee roasting world, experience that shows in every cup. The love of coffee is clearly evident. The shop has two roasting machines, one of which is usually running. Bags of green beans and roasted coffee occupy a significant portion of the first floor. Come at the right time in the evening and you’ll find staff and customers alike nerding out over the latest NinetyPlus or Geisha, likely freshly roasted that day.
And then there are the cats. In my time in Ningbo, I’d reckon at least a dozen cats have made their way through Ancient Coffee. As cats do, they range in personality from obnoxiously friendly to frustratingly aloof and everything in between. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll end up with one on your lap. So fluffy.
The cats are a manifestation of the excellent vibes that run through Ancient Coffee. The shop gets wonderful afternoon light, and the furniture and décor all feel lived in, a benefit of it having been around as long as it has. The music goes right along with the look of the place, old jazz tunes that are the musical equivalent of your favorite raggedy old sweater. It’s nice to see that some people understand that brand new is not always the best way to go.
Great coffee, nerds, cats and jazz music—Ancient Coffee is basically a Murakami novel come to life in the form of a cozy cafe. Next time you’re in Laowaitan, skip the Starbucks and grab a cup of what’s probably the best coffee in the city.