Midnight cafes offer more than just a comfortable place for customers to relieve stress, it also offers some people a sense of security and familiarity. Credit: Atlas Obscura.

At least twice a week, Chen Zhaoru frequents Visitant Bay Coffee in downtown Beijing’s Xicheng district. But unlike most people who enjoy drinking coffee in the afternoon, she prefers to drink it at night.

“Drinking coffee in the evening can help alleviate my stress and fatigue at work even more so than in the day, making me more relaxed and help me seek inner peace more easily,”  the 24-year-old violinist told China Daily.

The latest time she has ever been to the cafe near Guloudajie subway station was at 1 am after watching a movie. Chen said that having midnight coffee has become more popular among youngsters.

Yang Beibei, who opened the coffee shop this year, agrees. In her opinion, finding a place to talk to friends or doing something alone after work has been a strong demand from a rising number of customers, especially those who have to share apartments due to financial constraints in the capital.

“A few people come to the cafe often at night, so I don’t have a fixed closing time,” Yang said. “I won’t stop serving coffee until the last customer leaves, as I know my cafe is more like their living room.”

Hu Xuehui, a self-proclaimed night owl, also sees the change in consumer habits. Two years ago, he opened Hidden Hours, a midnight cafe in Wudaoying Hutong in Dongcheng district, hoping that it will serve as a quiet place for like-minded people, the report said.

“Many customers come to my cafe to continue talking or enjoy the night after watching a play or dinner in the area. The peak hour for my cafe is usually between 9 and 10 pm,” he said.

Hu also thinks that midnight cafes offer more than just a comfortable place for customers to relieve stress.

“The significance of a midnight cafe, I think, is to also give some people a sense of security when they are helpless in the evening,” he said.

“One night, a woman looking anxious and upset pushed the door of my cafe carrying her luggage,” he recalled. “She said it was her first day in Beijing, but she didn’t know where to go as she had lost her identity card and wallet, and the hotel she planned to stay in near the hutong was full.”

The woman said she decided to come to his cafe as it was the only place that was still open in the area at that time. “At that moment, I realized a cafe could be a ‘harbor’ for someone sometimes, so I didn’t close it until the customer found a hotel to stay at,” he said, feeling sympathy for the woman.

To cater to the various demands of his customers, Hu also sells alcoholic drinks such as craft beers at night, the report said.

Similar drink services are also provided at the branches of Big & Small Coffee in Qianmen and Guomao, two busy zones in the city.

Last year, Zhang Yipeng, the coffee chain’s founder, extended the closing time from 8 pm to midnight, and she sees these changes as an innovation.

“The customer group, looking for places to socialize after work at night, is growing bigger and bigger,” said Zhang, adding the majority of people coming to her cafes in the evening are mostly women in their 20s or 30s. Some are freelancers, while some are engaged in art, media and design jobs.

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