Headed to Beijing? Contemplating ways to pack your favorite coffeehouse in your luggage? Save the luggage fee, because Ritual Coffee Roasters is already there. FishEye Café, located in the middle of Sanlitun, Beijing's hot expat neighborhood, sources its beans once a week from Ritual. The Chinese baristas make drinks with the same care and craft as their U.S. counterparts.
FishEye is the project of Fish Sun, a former Apple employee who moved to China in 2006 and traded the corporate life for the hustle and bustle of running a cafe. He fell in love with coffee while studying computer science at the University of Washington. Sun and a friend rented a studio apartment and served coffee from their ground-floor window to pay for school.
China's coffee culture is dominated by Western chains like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Lavazza. "Starbucks did a great job of introducing coffee to the masses in China, but more Chinese can now afford to travel and taste better coffee from around the world," Sun says.
In 2009, he flew back to the U.S. for a three-day, three-city coffee tour. On his last day, he tried 23 cups of coffee around San Francisco. His last tasting was at Ritual, and he loved the natural sweetness and fruit-touched taste.
Six months later, Sun flew Ritual owner Eileen Hassi and her quality control manager to Beijing to train FishEye's staff as he prepared to open his cafe. After all the hard work, Sun wondered if the Chinese could taste the difference. FishEye opened in August 2010. For the first month, Sun did not provide sugar, to encourage his customers to taste the coffee. A year later, FishEye hums with regulars, and attracts new customers daily. To further customers' education, FishEye holds a Saturday class on how to make a cup of coffee and the history of the drink.