A surreal visit to a Chinese coffee shop, made less believable by a brochure gained…
“Experience Mocha!” it commands, and obeisance is mine, weak-willed and supine in the face of advertorial imperative, a surrendered slave to caffeine’s seductive call, writ large as headline on front-of-counter brochure. So experience I do, like there was ever a possibility that I would not, tourist hardly accidental in a franchised coffee shop, Qingdao, China, where an extra-large mocha is served with time and care disproportionate to the value purchased, by staff in Santa hats, seasonal cheer worn yet fitting not here in the decidedly secular People’s Republic.
I have lost my will and gained much blood sugar, but have a semblance of increasingly agitated wits still; my attention hyperactive turns in circles to the written instigator of my downfall—counter-side brochure with hypnotic headline I am still chanting inside:
“Experience Mocha… experience mocha…”
* * *
Written in English but thought in Chinese, the brochure is so absurd as to, koan-like, transcend absurdity and become good again, almost as though you had dug a hole so deep it was no longer a hole, but rather a tunnel to… China. Although unintentionally good, because to write like this on purpose—with irony and innocent sincerity mixed frothier than steamed milk—really would be an act of genius, and genius is difficult to ascertain when it’s lustre may just as well be malapropism from the original Chinese.
Whether intentional or otherwise, to me at least the brochure had an innocent sincerity, a quality now rare here in the West. Can you even imagine a major franchise, or pretty much anything or anyone else for that matter, writing a first person account of a man surreptitiously eavesdropping on a coffee shop conversation that wouldn’t contain a hint of innuendo or allusion? To me this is more refreshing than even a “cup of sweet melancholy and expectations.”
Like the brochure said: No full-stop in SPR coffee…
Like most people to and from work everyday. I want neither to stay in the office nor go home at times Then I always walk over to a coffee house named SPR, pretending I’m a drifting cloud.
The coffee house sits at the crossroad. The bar area is just in front of the left-side wall. Tables and chairs are arranged along the windows facing the street. It can only accommodate 30 guests.
It is not big yet elegantly furnished. The nostalgic tiles, western styled wail paintings, glass windows and curtains with U shaped small brown flower patterns contribute to its elegance.
After coffee snack, it is quiet again and I always come at this time. Then, the barista, perhaps a young couple, would readjust the jazz music to much lower volume. I would order a cup of Mocha, take out my paper and start writing a short essay.
I’m about to pick up my pen when my attention is distracted by the talk of the two girls. Fashionable, modern and young, they look like college students. They talk in a low voice, but I can still hear them and I can sense the anxiety, loneliness and expectations behind their laughter and talk the sweet melancholy of the young.
On a winter afternoon, a man snatching a little leisure is sipping the cup of sweet melancholy and expectations…
Coffee drenched links
- engrish.com: Engrish can be simply defined as the humorous English mistakes that appear in Japanese advertising and product design.” It can be found in other places also (like China), but engrish.com insist that the Japanese variety is usually superior
- Hanzi Smatter: dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in western culture
- SPR Coffee: Experience mocha at the source