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Brewing new experiences in a Beijing cafe

( English.news.cn ) Updated: 2014-02-13 16:17:41

While steamed bun manufacturer Goubuli is reportedly in talks to buy out a U.S. coffee chain to promote Chinese cuisine overseas, increasingly international Beijing has had its own upsurge in cultural import, with a glut of Western-style shops, bars, cafes and restaurants popping up in the capital.

They've always been around, but in just a few short years, the range, quantity and quality of these outlets have shot up.

Ma Kaimin, also known as Phil Ma, is one of those feeding this appetite for the new. He is the owner of Soloist Coffee Co. in Qianmen, running a cafe down a hutong not far from the famous Dashilar shopping street.

While his shop sits squarely in a chunk of old Beijing -- the hutong just one of a throng of tiny alleyways with roots in the Qing dynasty and a short walk from Tiananmen Square -- inside, the decor wouldn't look out of place in London or New York.

Mismatched furniture, exposed brickwork and bare filament bulbs found in any number of Western hipster bars are in abundance. No effort is made to conceal the pipes and cables powering the many machines and antique advertising posters adorn the walls, alongside a bicycle fixed somewhere near head height.

The specialty coffee is clearly a far cry from the ever-popular Nescafe 1+2 sachets and the ubiquitous Starbucks. Here, Ma sets up a stand looking suspiciously like a chemistry set to slowly filter the coffee into a glass jug, and the default serving is black to ensure the customer tastes the complex flavors of the beans sourced by a specialist dealer.

He politely advises not confusing the palate with a snack before tasting, and explains the beverage is at its best before it drops to room temperature.

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