Article By Mike Leaner
Xi Lv Compound, No.25, West of South 2 Ring Road.
10:30am – 8:00pm
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 35RMB
PROS: Great coffee, intimate experience, specialized menu
CONS: Perhaps too intimate and specialized for some
I’m slowly becoming more astute in the ways of finely made coffee, but generally it remains a means to a jittery, caffeinated end. It’s partly a defense mechanism—the roulette-ish nature of getting some java in the city means that if I’m keeping expectations very low (i.e. prizing caffeine above all else), then everything better than awful is great. This notion has served me well in years past, when “coffee shops” were behemoths that offered a thousand crappy drinks and “western” dishes for way too much money, and expected you to be impressed. However, the arc of the coffee universe is long and it bends towards better coffee, and Dirty Mind is a great example of that.
The Zhuque Da Jie location of Dirty Mind is the last remaining store of a chain that never quite got its links together. It’s just nestled into an alleyway along the Second Ring Road. It’s a humble location but a strategic one, chosen both for its proximity to some language schools and offices and the fact that there are no Starbuckses around. There is a narrow counter to sit at and a couple of almost-tables along the rear wall, but it’s such a small store that the 10-person capacity is literally all it can hold. I preferred sitting at the counter, because it gave me a chance to see my coffee being made and also some opportunity to talk to the owner/operator of the café.
What impressed me most about Dirty Mind was the straight-forwardness of its menu. There are no more than ten coffee drinks on the menu, six of which are always available. These staples are a no-frills affair—Americano, latte, cappuccino, flat white, you get the idea. Every drink accentuates the best aspects of the coffee and is prepared with incredible care. I had something called the “Dirty,” a shot of hot espresso surmounting an undercurrent of cold milk that eventually coalesced into a smooth, refreshing drink. My companion had a latte, which had a most spectacular design drawn into its foam. When paired with one of the two cakes offered, it was a great afternoon-tea-like experience.
Dirty Mind proves that, when it comes to coffee, simplicity is key. You don’t need a huge dining room floor or an encyclopedic menu—all you need is solid brewing skills and a small place to show off your wares.
Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org