Shire Hobbiton Coffee, Guilin, China

After too many cups of terrible instant coffee in China, we were jonesing for some real java.

With its Starbucks-green sign, Java-ripped off logo, and LOTR-inspired name, Shire Hobbiton Coffee (夏尔咖啡) looked promising.

As we looked closer, we realized there was a big map of Middle Earth above the door, and countless photos from the movie trilogy taped on the walls along the stairway up to the cafe.

Shire Hobbiton Coffee, Guilin, ChinaWalking into the dark cafe, a young lady in a parka jumped up and turned on the lights. (In Guilin in winter, it appears to be common to keep the heat and lights off to save on utilities until absolutely necessary.)

She led us to a lovely table by the window with a view of the river — and under a painting of the watchful Eye of Sauron.

Jason almost fell out of the booth when he saw “Shire Lambas Biscuit” on the snacks menu, right above waffle and cheesecake.

As we waited for our orders, we flipped through two guest books signed by a multitude of visitors in all varying languages. Looks like this is THE place to hang out, for a quiet break from the city hubbub.

There’s a bookshelf of English and Chinese books, board games and one internet computer station. What more do you need!

Turns out Shire Hobbiton makes some pretty darn good coffee. My espresso and Jason’s cappuccino (26 yuan or $4.75 CAD each) was certainly above Starbucks standards.

And my lambas biscuit (chocolate cookie) was um, on par with what the Hobbitses churn out, I’m sure.

Shire Hobbiton Coffee, Guilin, China

Shire Hobbiton Coffee, 66 Bin Jiang Road, Guilin, Guangxi, China, phone 86-773-288-0789.