The Melow Tea Cafe and Restuarant offers a calm spot to
catch up on reading. Zou Hong / China Daily
Milk teas and customized beverages are the stars at these chain stores.
When Barz Li moved to Beijing five years ago and found no one was selling the type of milk tea favored by diners in his home town Taipei. So he decided to open a cafe. Now his Mellow Tea Cafe and Restaurant is expecting its fifth store open at Pingod in Baiziwan area in the east.
Tucked inside a colorful residential compound (near the east gate of the red building), the Mellow Tea in New Town SOHO is not easy to find.
But once you locate it, the spot is a pleasurable haven for dining with friends, hanging out, or even getting some work done alone using the cafe's free Wi-Fi connection.
Just tell the guard at the compound's entrance (opposite the backdoor of Master Kong noodles) that you want to go to the restaurant and he will let you pass the aluminum gate without checking for your residence permit.
Perhaps the characteristic that sets Mellow Tea apart from other restaurants and cafes in Beijing is the ability to customize the sweetness, concentration (light, strong or extra), and temperature (cold, warm or hot) of its drinks.
"Most of our female customers are fond of this service, which is the latest fashion from Taipei as customers start to pay more attention to personal health and their figures," said Li, 30, who co-founded the cafe with Kevin Lin.
Although some may think this feature is no big deal in itself, the concept of customization can be a bit harder to grasp at other local cafes - one literally must tell the staff at many of them that you want sugar and milk on the side so that you can blend the drink yourself.
Mellow Tea, which serves authentic Taiwanese-style food and beverages as well as Western food, is sensitive to the different tastes of local customers.
"Every dish we are going to put on the menu, we will invite friends from various places to taste. We make sure that it is well-recieved," Li said.
If the Western items are reminiscent of the fare at TGIF (think burgers, onion rings and milkshakes), be aware that the portions at Mellow Tea are smaller and priced accordingly. Two of the partners have experience making food at the US-based pub grub restaurant chain.
The Dallas Burger (37 yuan) with mushrooms and cheese might be a bit small for a big hungry American. However, it is the right size for guests who wish to accompany it with soup or salad.
The Taiwanese minced pork with rice was especially good (22 yuan). The homemade sweet and sour pickles went well with the pork.
Compared with its first shop in Chaowai SOHO (Building A, Suite 106), which offers a futuristic dcor with minimal lines and simple black and white colors, the Wanda shop is more like a cozy, feminine living room with soft black leather seats, black tables and floral wallpaper.
Because of its hidden location and relaxed atmosphere, the restaurant is regularly booked to serve customer parties and company gatherings.
Both cafes play an eclectic mix of music in the afternoons, including new wave, rock 'n' roll and bossa nova.
Although the Chaowai location proffers fewer food items than the Wanda location, it does maintain Mellow Tea's signature lunch specials such as steamed chicken drumstick with rice (25 yuan) and mellow stewed pork with rice (22 yuan) that are available from 11:30 am to 2 pm.
The lunch specials come with two small dishes and a bowl of daily soup. For another 8 yuan guests receive a beverage such as the pearl milk tea (regularly 10 yuan).
Guests can also purchase recharge cards for 300 yuan which allow a 12 percent discount, free super-sizing of beverages, as well as free gifts such as imported hand lotions. Zou Hong / China DAily