Shanghai is famous for its swampy weather in August – it’s hot and humid in the lead up to Indian summer. Staying hydrated against the rising mercury is crucial if you’re out hunting a meal of street food, so here are the best sips to keep your yin and yang balanced this season.
Julie’s Green Apple Mint Juice
This neighborhood Yunnan specialty restaurant (formerly known Mia’s Yunnan Kitchen) takes bold flavors from southwest China and elevates them in simple combinations. In many of their noodle and main dishes, mint features prominently – there is even a salad composed entirely of mint leaves that will leave you wondering why anyone is even bothering with iceberg lettuce. By supercharging fresh apple juice with a fistful of pressed mint leaves, Julie’s makes the idea of a juice cleanse just a teensy bit more appealing.
Mansion Hotel’s Longjing Green Tea
Tempting as it may be to reach for a cold glass of iced tea on a hot day, it’s actually a better idea to stick to warm beverages. Due to its unprocessed and unfermented state, green tea has a substantial amount of caffeine, which helps stimulate the body to transform fat into energy and for the body to sweat slightly, which in turns cools skin temperature. Seriously, the science checks out.
Have a pot of warm afternoon tea at the Mansion Hotel in the peaceful former French Concession. Once the playground of notorious gangster Du Yuesheng during the heyday of opium dealing, the hotel lobby and front courtyard today provide an inexpensive afternoon tea spot away from tourist hordes, set in a lovely, historic setting replete with bubbling fountains. Opt for a pot of the area’s famed Longjing green tea from nearby Hangzhou. It’s not the Peninsula’s famous (and pricy) high tea, but the quiet setting makes it a great affordable warm-weather alternative.
Sumerian Café’s Iced Coffee Drinks
These coffee brewmasters always have new tricks up their sleeve. Their latest creation has proved so popular, their biggest problem has been figuring out a way to make batches big enough to keep up with demand. Not for the faint of heart (seriously – make sure you don’t have a heart condition), the Nitro is a 24-hour cold-brewed coffee that is then kegged, lightly carbonated and charged with “beer gas” during filtration. It’s served cold on tap in their recently renovated café, and tastes a bit like a rich coffee-Guinness. We felt the caffeine hitting us well before we reached halfway down the cup. If you’re into that, well, the Nitro may just boost your morning into oblivion.
They’ve also added a range of iced drinks, from carbonated coffee berry tea to refillable 1.89-liter cold brew coffee growlers. These guys keep other cafés on their toes!
Urban Thai’s Iced Tea
Urban Thai likes to claim they make the best Thai iced tea in town, and they’re right on the money. And since Thailand’s temperatures are higher than Shanghai’s year-round, you know this is good for your heat index (if not your blood sugar). Urban Thai’s recipe is, of course, secret, but the mother-daughter restaurateurs have just opened a second spot to serve the black tea sweetened with sugar and condensed milk, so now you have double the chances to indulge your sweet tooth and slake your thirst. They offer takeout cups but their “best in town” motto extends to several Thai dishes, so we advise you to eat in.
As the portmanteau-d name implies, this new shop is going for multiple trends in one. We think fruit, juice and icy together equals fruicy, but here’s the real deal: sparkling water, plus fresh fruit and juice mixed in with various tea blends (and ice of course), which makes for quite the refreshing gulp. We loved the sparkling lemon and ginger, as well as cucumber and mango, but there’s lots of variety within the green and black tea base-categories. It’s not a bad idea to ask for low sugar (低糖 dītáng) as the standard at Fruicy (and essentially every to-go drink stand) is generally very sweet. There’s a few small seats, but this one is best enjoyed before or after exploring the nearby Tianzifang area.
Editor’s note: Shanghai has seen a record-breaking heatwave this summer, so we thought it was worthwhile to publish an updated version of our 2014 article on refreshing drinks.