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Chinatown Gets First Indie Coffeehouse

L’Oréal Blackett finds Yorkshire brewed beans at Chris' Coffee China Town

Written by . Published on September 17th 2014.

Chinatown Gets First Indie Coffeehouse

IT'S NOT that Manchester’s Chinatown, with its plethora of restaurants and bakeries and big name chains within hopping distance, was crying out for a coffee shop.

“Funnily enough, before I opened the coffee shop I didn’t enjoy coffee. I always found it to be too bitter. That’s until I was told I was drinking the wrong coffee."

But now, thanks to the cult of coffee worship, you can follow a coffee bean trail from one end of the city centre to the other through Chinatown and on to the city's nearby certified brew capital, the Northern Quarter.

Coffeehouses are not the norm in Chinatown, so much so that Sinty Leung, co-owner of the one-week-old Chris' Coffee on Princess Street, is fairly sure she and her partner are the first to bring a coffeehouse to the area. 'Fairly' is the operative word here.

“Next door does Bubble tea (tea base mixtures with fruit or milk) and Wong’s Bakery does a standard filter coffee but yes, I’d say we’re the first dedicated coffeehouse,” said Sinty Leung. “I think in Chinatown many don’t see a need for a coffee shop as there are many big chains close by.”

Img_8603Chris' Corner

Interestingly, while China may be the homeland of tea it has an ever growing coffee culture. After the US, China is the second-largest market for Starbucks. Still, here in Manchester's Chinatown, coffee tends to be an after thought.

“In Hong Kong the coffee business broke through years ago. You have your Starbucks but there also a lot of new independents appearing,” explained Leung as she showed off her impressive collection of Far East sourced coffee pots and coffee-makers. 

Sinty LeungSinty Leung of Chris' Corner

Chris’ Coffee is a charming pint-sized coffee venture from Leung and her partner Chris, based within an unassuming ground floor location, directly across from Yang Sing on Princess Street.

It's a spin-off from the couple's popular hairdressers next door (aptly named Chris' Salon), conjured up after Chris saw a route for expansion when the space was made available.

“Funnily enough, before I opened the coffee shop I didn’t enjoy coffee. I always found it to be too bitter. That’s until I was told I was drinking the wrong coffee,” laughed Leung. “So I went on a course and was taught about timing and types of coffee beans. Before I could never drink an unsweetened Americano, but now it’s my favourite.”

Sinty Leung’s developed a keen palette for beans and brews after she was taken under the wing of a coffee expert. Now, when it comes to coffee, she’s a purist and has chosen to have her own branded Brazillan and El Salvadorian beans hand roasted in Yorkshire – any further away from Manchester and she believes the coffee would have been too bitter. 


Inspired by trips to Rome and Florence Chris’ Coffee specialises in only coffee. Making use of the incredibly small space (seats just 13 people) she serves cakes (Chocolate & Seville Orange cake, Cherry & Almond cake, and Carrot & Orange cakeordered in from a specialist baker, imported and locally made snacks and Italian Affogato coffee ice cream. Although, Chris' won't be selling any sandwiches. Quelle horreur.

“We wanted to concentrate on the coffee. After visiting Italy we realised we didn’t have to provide everything. The coffeehouses I visited were small and catered just the coffee. In the UK there is usually a demand to provide more, but that’s where your big chains come in," Leung said.

Not that Chris' Coffee has stuck entirely down the traditional coffeehouse route. It's a sugary sweet and prettied up boutique coffee shop – with a whole lot of white furniture. It’s undeniably feminine, but Leung isn’t too bothered.

“I did consider choosing the traditional warm, walnut tones. I gathered my friend’s opinion on design and they did say it’s incredibly feminine and suggested I add more masculine features, but I decided to go for what I like: turqouise finishings, clean white furniture and a statement pink wall.”

Img_8602The coffee (£2)

It’s hard not to like Leung and her passionately run business - even sans sandwiches. The proof of the pudding (or the coffee) resided with my latte. For £2, it was a strong, smooth and a comforting balance of bitterness and sweetness – to Leung’s credit it was definitely not too bitter as Starbucks can be.

“Without sounding overconfident the coffee here is good, really good. We want to offer something different to all the other big chains nearby. It's unfortunate that people may miss us because of our location, but I hope people who do spot us will like the coffee and spread the word."

You can find Chris' Coffee on 83 Princess Street and on Facebook

Follow @LOreal_B on Twitter

Img_8610For decorative purposes: coffee maker from Hong Kong

Img_8611Another from the far east

Chris CornerChris Corner


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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

I very rarely visit Chinatown and when I have it tends to involve a works Christmas party, so by in large this area of the city is a bit of a mystery to me. I think I'm gonna have a wonder around and see what's on offer and I'll be having a coffee here no doubt. Much rather spend my money with an independent than a big multinational.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

After reading all the comments since i posted yesterday, i'm thinking i'll give Chinatown a miss for a bit longer. It sounds horrible.

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

If you lived your life based on comments on here, you wouldn't ever go anywhere. Everything is crap according to the ManCon comments section.

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

agreed, Mancon comments section is more depressing thank the MEN nowadays

DavidSeptember 17th 2014.

Why does the council not have some vision for Chinatown?.There are more and more wealthy Chinese students coming to the city,the Chinese tourist numbers are set to boom with simpler visa process and direct flights to China,yet unlike other areas of the city the council seems to have bugger all interest in developing what is potentially one of the most important areas of the city.The great empty space in the centre is a embarrassment,could there not be a significant museum of Chinese culture?.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Asking why the council has no vision for Chinatown implies they have a vision for the rest of the city?

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

What would you suggest the council do about China town? In what way does it need improving? Why would Chinese tourists / students benefit from an improved China town?

rinkydinkSeptember 17th 2014.

It's up to the businesses in Chinatown to up their game and improve the restaurants for a start. Most are at best dated and some look filthy. Some new, bright and modern additions wouldn't go amiss

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Please don't ask the council to get involved. Look at Library Walk, Piccadilly Gardens, Gay Pride, the New Year firework display. The council rips the soul out of everything it touches. Please don't encourage councillors to poke their sticky beaks into Chinatown, they'll wreck it.

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

David what are you on about you tool? Have you not seen that massive fecking archway? Paid for by the council? Have you not seen the trees, benches and lighting?

pollolocoSeptember 18th 2014.

Chinatown is a bit of a dump visually and many of the restaurants are indeed dated and in need of a clean up. Yang Sing's social media is better than their food nowadays!

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

can someone please clear the smack/piss heads that literally squat on the benches in china town, in a few years they are going to legally own that NCP in the square

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

I didn't know China Town was still there. So 1980's! The place is ideal for inner city living.

AnonymousSeptember 19th 2014.

Is a let down CHINA TOWN..Stuck in the 80's..Smells....They need to go to TORONTO to see what it could be like..That carpark in the centre? Should be a park and parking would be great underground...

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2014.

I went along to Chris Coffee shop today. tried a lovely ice cream dessert.It was really delicious. The decor is really cute , very retro . Service with a smile too i will definitely be going back!!

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