Background Information

Coffee has been increasing in popularity over the past few decades, and perceptions toward coffee have been changing. What was once a status marker for cosmopolitan urbanites is now an increasingly normal caffeine boost for China’s youth. Chains such as Starbucks and hip independent cafés line the streets of Shanghai, Beijing, and other urban centers. Café culture is becoming more and more commonplace in China. However, coffees popularity in China is not without controversy. In 2007, a Starbucks in Beijing’s Forbidden City closed in response public disapproval. Of course, many cafes still dot the streets surrounding many major historical locations in Beijing such as 雍和宫 (yōnghé gōng), a famous Tibetan Buddhist temple not far from the Forbidden City. At the same time, Beijing’s hutong alleyways, prized symbols of Beijing’s traditional architecture, are making way for new construction and, probably, new coffee shops. These story, as well as many others, highlight the age-old debate over the traditional and the modern in China. What symbolizes China’s traditional culture? How can these practices be preserved? When does modernization put traditional culture at risk? These themes are still discussed today as China continues to develop, grow, and change.

Starbucks Closes Coffeehouse in Forbidden City (NPR)

The rise of Chinese coffee culture (Shake to Win)

Yonghe Temple 

The Great Disappearing Act of Beijing’s Hutongs (Global Heritage Fund)

咖啡馆 Cafés

Suggested Level

Context Information: Zolton is an American student, and 传祥 (Chuánxiáng) is a domestic Chinese student. They are discussing Zolton’s favorite study spot.

Zolton: 我今天去一个非常漂亮的咖啡馆。

传祥: 哪儿?

Zolton: 我不知道。

传祥: 是在哪个附近?

Zolton: 看,你看,它的名字是 Vineyard Café。

传祥: 嗯。

Zolton: 你给我一分钟我,现在——

传祥: 在民族大学旁边吗?

Zolton: 不是不是。我用地铁1去那儿比较,比较远。四十五分钟 Vineyard Café 看一看,在这儿。

传祥: 哦葡萄院。

Zolton: 在那儿有一个很大的庙。

传祥: 噢。

Zolton: 是不是【庙】?

传祥: 你为什么跑这么远去学习啊?

Zolton: 因为我,这个,怎么说?那个地铁站——

传祥: 雍和宫啊?

Zolton: 对雍和宫。对,所以因为我在网上看他们的咖啡非常好。

传祥: 噢,所以你为了杯咖啡坐地铁坐到雍和宫。哇!

Zolton: 对。

传祥: (clapping)

Zolton: 还有我在,我很喜欢在咖啡馆里面做工作做功课,可是在那儿有很多学中文的学生,所以不太安静因为跟他们应该讨论2。我不太喜欢。

传祥: (laughing)

Zolton: 所以我觉得自己一个人会去3,还有这个咖啡馆在一个胡同里面。

传祥: 嗯。

Zolton: 所以我觉得非常有意思。气氛很好,所以很高兴我去。

传祥: 嗯。所以很高兴我去了那儿4——

Zolton: 我去了。

传祥: 对对对。

Zolton: 对,我们可以一起去。

传祥: 嗯对。下次我可以一起去但是我更希望能够约个女孩子去 (laughing)。

Zolton: 好的。我们可以三个人一起去(laughing)。

1. In English, it is acceptable to say ‘use’ or ‘take the metro/subway’. Zolton may have been translating this pattern from English. In Chinese, the verb 坐 (zuò) ‘to sit’ is used.

2. Here, Zolton is explaining that the Chinese language students have to have conversations for class. 会讨论 (huì táolùn) ‘will have discussions’ rather than 应该讨论 (yīnggāi táolùn), which translates to ‘should have a conversation’.

3. Zolton is trying to say something like ‘I’ll go by myself’. The order of this phrase would generally be 我会自己一个人去 rather than 我自己一个人会去.

4. Zolton is trying to say something like ‘so I’m very happy to go there’. The order of this phrase would generally be 所以去那里很高兴 rather than 所以很高兴我去了那儿. 了 (le) would generally be omitted.


  1. 民族 (mínzú) Ethnic minority
  2. 葡萄园 (pútáoyuán) Vineyard
  3. (miào) Temple
  4. 地铁站 (dìtiězhàn) Subway station
  5. 雍和宫 (yōnghé gōng) Yong He Gong; The Lama Temple (a famous Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing)
  6. 安静 (ānjìng) Quiet
  7. 讨论 (tǎolùn) To discuss
  8. 胡同 (hútong) Alley
  9. 气氛 (qìfēn) Atmosphere
  10. (yuē) To ask on a date