A few months ago, a new coffee shop opened a couple blocks from our apartment. It was intriguing to watch as it came into being. It wasn’t easy to tell at first what it was, but the back counter had some suspicious looking things that led me to believe that it was a coffee shop. The shop is located on the route that David and I take to the bus in the morning. When we walked by, we noticed lovely potted flowers in front of tables full of a variety of packaged food items, like crackers, cookies, snacks, and the like. Eventually, it was clear even to me that coffee was certainly a part of this blossoming business. So one day I stopped in. My ability to sniff out new coffee haunts had not failed me.
I know very little spoken Chinese, and my ability to recognize written Chinese is so limited as to be almost non-existent. Still, Jessica (the proprietor) knew enough English that I could go in and order coffee. And it wasn’t long before I was a regular, taking my netbook and a few work projects to her shop two or three times a week. She and her niece, Polly, were very friendly, and I felt very welcome in the shop. Since Jessica had left school several years ago, she was unable to keep up with her spoken English as much as she would have liked, as most of her friends from school had moved away, some of them abroad. Still, Jessica wanted to practice her spoken English, and I enjoyed giving her that opportunity while learning more about our common passion–coffee.
Over the weeks since her shop has been open, she and I have become friends. She can practice English, and I can have her delicious latte. Until recently, I was always having hot latte, but as the weather has warmed up in the last couple of weeks, I had the pleasure of having her iced lattes as well. So refreshing!
But one day, a really great conversation took place. I mentioned the writing group to Jessica–the one with the college students that I mentioned a couple days ago for the letter G. The group had met in a couple of other coffee shops in the area, but we hadn’t really found a home that was comfortable. Jessica was thrilled to have our group come on Tuesday evenings. Even more exciting, she wanted to join the group herself and work on her English writing. It was a match made in heaven.
The first thing Jessica wrote for our writing group was a short piece about her coffee shop. She wanted to post it on her Facebook page. I include it below to show you how her shop has changed since the flowers and packaged food that she started with.
My name is Jessica. I love coffee, so three years ago I got a shop to sell coffee and brunch. I bought a coffee machine, because I hope that good coffee would make my guests happy in the morning. My dream came true; my business got better and better, but I started having trouble with my machine. The side that made the steam stopped working, and the parts needed to be changed. I was so sad because I didn’t know how to solve it. At the same time, the lease on my store expired, and I needed to find a new store to rent.
Without a coffee machine, I’m using paper drip to make coffee. Although paper drip is a good way to make coffee, it can’t make crema. Obviously I need a small coffee machine. That’s why I’m learning about coffee machines now. When I get a new coffee machine, the coffee will have a deeper flavor, and I will get perfect crema.
I’ve also decided to sell different merchandise. Instead of brunch, I will just offer coffee and clothes. I invite you to visit me at my new shop to have a cup of coffee or tea. You can also see a variety of fashionable clothes that can suit your life.
I had never heard about crema before, and Jessica did her best to explained it to me in English. It was great because it was clear to me that our regular conversations were making her more confident about expressing herself in English. If you are interested in learning more about crema, I found this interesting page.
My husband, David, took the pictures above that show the coffee shop in its early days. So tonight while I was writing part of this post at the coffee shop, he came along with me to get some updated pictures showing the coffee shop with its new focus: a selection of clothing and accessories.
I love the cute handbags that look like foxes and owls. The other thing I like is that there are a couple partial mannequins that “model” a couple outfits. I’m impressed with how often Jessica changes their “look,” and the lovely bright colored scarfs and necklaces she uses to accessorize them. Coffee and clothing isn’t a common combination, but Jessica makes it work, and I enjoy all the color and texture that the clothing brings to her coffee shop.
Jessica told me that her friends often ask her why she’s so happy. She tells them it’s because “I don’t have time to be sad.” She looks on the bright side of life. But that doesn’t stop her from being a compassionate and generous person. I have been so touched by the way she has opened her shop every Tuesday evening to the writing group, including free tea to everyone. Those who order coffee get a discount. Jessica works hard to improve her writing. She also continues to expand her vocabulary. Sometimes, when she and I are having a conversation, she will use her phone to look up a new word in English. One of her customers has also joined the writing group. It’s become a great place where students and community come together around the desire to improve their written and spoken English, and I am honored to be part of it.
This morning, when I finished my class, I checked Facebook, and saw the picture you see at the right. I sent her a message right away! “Did you make that?” She responded, “Yes, I have a machine.” Tonight when I was there, she told me that she was so happy to have this for her breakfast this morning.
She is also delighted to have the opportunity to improve her English. She never dreamed she would have an American friend with whom she could practice. And I have to say, I’m pretty happy to have a Taiwanese friend who shares my passions of writing and coffee.
Thanks, Jessica! I’m so happy to count you among my friends!