L and I love coffee shops. In fact, you might say that they are one of the passions of our life.
We weren’t sure whether we would find them in Lanzhou, so imagine how delighted we were when we discovered one in the building right next to the school.
All in all, it is a pretty modern space, the huge office block next door. It appears to be made of glass and consists of many different workspaces. At night it appears to be blue, with long vertical rows of red lights running from the top down to the ground.
At 5 pm most of the office workers leave and I have noted that they are mostly young and extremely trendy.
The foyer is large and airy, with one very high wall featuring what appears to be a vertical garden. I ventured close to it the other day and touched one shiny green leaf. It was plastic.
Off from the foyer, there is a small store, selling all kinds of luxuries. I bought L a ‘Snickers’ bar there ( it was the only kind of chocolate bar in the store) and myself an M & M. There are packets of a Chinese brand of crisps and the ‘Lays’ brand in tubes. The bags that food comes in in China are always like tightly blown up cushions, with very firmly stuck down seams that have to be cut open – I find them impossible to pull apart.
On the other side of the foyer, L and I discovered it – a coffee bar!
The coffee bar is a beautiful space, the walls are paneled with wood and the chairs are large and softly upholstered.
Music – of the kind heard everywhere in China – is playing softly in the background, and hidden lighting illuminates the shelves against the wall. China teacups and teapots glow and shine in the yellow light amongst packets of tea and imported coffee.
We wanted to order something to drink. The woman who was working alone behind the counter could speak no English and the menu was helpful in that it did contain the words ‘Tea’ and ‘Coffee’.
L took a chance and ordered the coffee that was first on the list of choices.
I did the same with the list of teas.
We were both lucky, although I have a feeling that all the choices would have been good.
A light blue steel staircase spiraled up to a second floor. The Chinese lady indicated we might want to go up the stairs. We did so and chose to sit at a table at the window. Outside, snow was falling, but it was snug and warm inside.
We were alone apart from two men who we glimpsed behind a beautifully painted screen. They were having a meeting (smoking indoors!) and drinking tea. After they left I went and looked at their table as they had left it. Evidence of the tea ceremony remained, the cups in a row, the beautiful teapot. There was a little clay turtle in the tray and a small reddish three legged frog. An ashtray with a few cigarette butts. When they left, they pushed each other forward towards the light blue spiral staircase. Eventually one conceded and went first.
An older business woman came and sat alone and ate a type of bread from a cellophane packet, with only her cellphone for company.
We sat in the window and sipped our drinks slowly. After my first sip, I was not so sure…but that is often the case here in China. After my second sip I began to like my drink, and by my third sip, I loved it.
L has been wanting to visit again, soon, his cappuccino was that good! And we will.
It might just become a habit!