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Hearing-impaired baristas brew up expertise

By HE QI in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2023-04-14 07:45
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People enjoy sipping a brew at the seventh Lujiazui Coffee Festival in Shanghai, which attracts 260 coffee brands to participate. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Hearing-impaired baristas partnered others to compete in a latte art competition at the seventh Lujiazui Coffee Festival in Shanghai that kicked off late last month.

It was the second such contest jointly organized by Swedish food company Oatly, Alipay's Blue Wind Chime Program and Chinese coffee chain Unibrown Coffee.

The contest featured 10 groups of baristas who were scored on their latte art, taste and production time.

Hou Liang, who lost his hearing in childhood due to a high fever, won the competition.

After graduating from a special education school in 2006, Hou worked in graphic design for nearly eight years before making his foray into the coffee industry.

"I went to a Starbucks' sign-language store in Malaysia and I met several 'silent baristas'. I have also tried different beans in different regions in specialty coffee shops in China, and that got me interested in the coffee industry," says the 39-year-old barista, who scored the highest for latte art and taste in the contest.

Hou launched his first cafe, Lanna Coffee, with his partner in 2021.He credits the achievement to the training provided by Oatly.

"The 'silent barista' project by Oatly carries out regular training and has developed a special ordering system and a sign-language dictionary that helps us to get certified by the Specialty Coffee Association," says Hou.

Established in January 2017, the Specialty Coffee Association is a trade association aimed at fostering global coffee communities that support activities that make coffee a more sustainable, equitable and thriving activity for the entire value chain.

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