Beijing 2013: Love, Gastronomy, and Freshly-Brewed Coffee

So I’ve finally succeeded in convincing myself to edit the pictures from Beijing back in May —— I’ve been wanting to get it over and done with ever since I returned home (obviously) but have been putting it off for months now as new happenings kept on popping up. It was only when I realised I was about to embark on my second trip back to the Chinese capital that it dawned upon me that I’ve yet to write about the very first one. Also because I’ll be attending CAFFA (the Coffee and Art Fringe Festival Asia) 2013 with my girls tomorrow, pre-Beijing. They say some things have to happen before others can follow —— I think I might just agree with that sentiment.

Since it’s been quite some time, I’ve decided to split the posts up so I can actually take my time to complete and cover all of the experiences individually. Beijing had been a nine-day affair, with me boarding a six-hour flight (only half the duration of the long-haul flights I’ve grown accustomed to in university) to visit the beau after a good four to five months of long-distance. Also because he was constantly sending me pictures of and telling me stories about interesting places in the city that he’d explored and wanted to bring me to.

Truth be told, I’m not much of a tourist —— unless it concerns a European city, such as Paris or Rome or Barcelona, or if something piques my interest enough —— so I chose to stay away from the more well-known and established touristy spots and planned my trip around more contemporary places instead. Sanlitun, the 798 Art District, Qianmen Street, Houhai (which I didn’t manage to cover in the end) —— still relatively touristy, but definitely more suited to my tastes. And of course, cafe culture.

Maan Coffee in the Chaoyang district, one of the cafes where the beau has his regular meetings at and my very first taste of the cafe culture in Beijing. Apparently significantly commercial and not quite as independent as some, but still charming in its own way nonetheless. The Maan homonym translates to both slow and romantic —— very refreshing from the seemingly perpetual and somewhat inescapable rush of the hectic Beijing lifestyle.

It’s almost utopian as far as contemporary cafe and bistro interiors go —— very loft-like and spacious, with high ceilings and cemented walls and flooring; huge, comfortable armchairs sprawled around for you to sink blissfully into; and Victorian desk lamps to add a little antique charm to it all. The cafe is bathed in generous, warm sunshine during the day, and in the night, I’d imagine the place to be lit by the warm glow from the table lamps and the coloured lanterns hanging from skinny branches, aside from the elaborate crystal chandeliers suspending from the ceiling.

It’s heaven in a sense —— sockets at every table, where I can literally sit from day to night, reading and writing, looking for inspiration, and perhaps listening to a good album or watching a good film. Or two. Or three. All whilst baristas hustle and bustle in front of you, behind the coffee bar, whistling while brewing steaming hot drinks and whipping up sweet treats. Yum.

They’ve a large range of desserts and you’re practically spoilt for choice, although most of the variety are built upon the foundational waffle and thick toast, boasting assorted toppings like honey, whipped cream, condensed milk, chocolate sauce, berry compote, and confectioner’s sugar amidst a selection of sliced fruits and other delectable embellishments.

Of course I had to go for the thick toast with strawberries drizzled with condensed milk. Was initially tempted to get the waffles with strawberries, Nutella, and icing sugar, but it was shortly after a heavy lunch and that looked a tad too filling (and big) at that point in time. As for drinks, we both had iced white chocolate mochas with dollops of whipped cream, pictured above.

There’s not much that can top the inviting aroma of warm, freshly-brewed and roasted coffee seeping quietly in between intimate, mid-afternoon conversations that are just as delightful as they are stirring. It’s also at times like these, when time and the afternoon seem to slow down ever so slightly, when the hours seem to linger like the lightest of touches, before the rush hour comes barging in and all is swept along in its relentless current once again, deep into the night. I digress.

An artsy place calls for (attempted) artsy pictures,

Maybe not.

An iPhone attempt after I gave up on the DSLR.

And that’s a (small) part of Beijing done! At least I can now say (with satisfaction) I’ve done something with regard to the first trip, but there’s more to come, of course. In the meantime, enjoy your Friday evening, all!



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