Wo Shi Laowai – Wo Pa Shui

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Ni hao, this is a Chinese rip-off

Posted by MyLaowai on Sunday, November 1, 2015

From the Vault
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Ni hao, this is a Chinese rip-off.
By ChouChou

The following is a true story.

Friend Coffee Shop Manager lounges in his deep leather chair. Before him lie the disparate elements of his new promising Starbucks-style coffee shop: Atmospheric Just Like Seattle Coffee Shop Number 47. It is his job to combine them into a seamless whole. Stirring the crackling logs afire in the grate, he bends to his task.

The musical consultant, he notes, has excelled himself. Reflecting the quintessential Jazz/Blues style of the 1950’s so typical of this type of establishment, the soundtrack blends big band overtures with sultry Billie Holliday lyrics. Background samples intersperse each track, such as Sarah Vaughn jiving with the compere, or a nostalgic announcer introducing Frank Sinatra to complete the aural picture. Friend Coffee Shop Manager stirs his Kenyan coffee beans with a silver spoon and, smiling whimsically at the connection, turns his attention to the coffee mugs and assorted cutlery recently received from the utensils distributer. Quickly taking on an expert’s eye, he examines the samples. It is, of course, superlative. The classy pastel tones of the chosen coffee mugs contrast excitedly with the bright clutter of the quasi-beat generation style of the menu which recalls the work of Jack Kerouac. Skillful finishes to the chalk blackboard breathe life into an otherwise tired cliche; Friend Coffee Shop Manager is particularly impressed with the way a few simple touches imply both sophistication and a timeless elegance to the black and chalky background.

A muffled laugh distracts Friend Coffee Shop Manager’s attention. He glances through the Victorian service hatch of his open kitchen to see that some of the trial customers are enjoying themselves throughly with the selection of art and music books he has displayed for their perusal. With a hearty guffaw, he lies back in his comfortable Ikea chair with a sheaf of notes recounting present customer feedback. It is indeed an involving read, and the ashes are heavy in the traditional log fire before he lays the binder aside.

Finally, Friend Coffee Shop Manager scans through his coffee menu. He is rightly pleased with himself; it is a vibrant yet inclusive selection of world coffees. He congratulates himself on his foresight to include a variety of exotic teas for Asian customers, so making the sociable integration of customers from differing backgrounds a simple affair. Fascinatingly, despite knowing the shop intimately, Friend Coffee Shop Manager’s brief examination to confirm all is in order stretches into a thorough audit, and quiet has fallen upon the attractive front garden before he has completed his investigations.

Only one thing remains. An additional complement of light refreshments to brighten the already excellent drinks menu. Some snacks, perhaps, that foreign customers yearn for during their travels abroad? Friend Coffee Shop Manager nods slowly. But what kind of refreshments would be appropriate? He paces around his desk. He stops before a specific bookcase; his hand idly selects a certain book. It is a bound volume of the history of sandwiches, with many chapters highlighting the grandeur that a good beef steak is held in regard in many western cultures. Friend Coffee Shop Manager rifles through the pages, unconsciously absorbing the woodcut illustrations of classic American cuisine; a brief history of the Earl of Sandwich; the likes and dislikes of 20th century Europeans; and the rise of the fast food enterprises. Friend Coffee Shop Manager closes the book, noting the illustration of a sirloin steak dripping in gravy caught on the front cover. A lightbulb snaps on in his mind. A furious bout of redesigning the food menu ensues, and everything is finally complete. Now, as the customer browses through the menu of Atmospheric Just Like Seattle Coffee Shop Number 47, if one is hungry they may choose a nice beef steak sandwich covered in either raspberry or strawberry jam. Also, if they fancy a drink, they may order it alongside two bottles of Chivas for only 888 yuan.


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