A barista and her silent café world

By Zhang Peijian and Li Jingrong
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, December 31, 2017
Barista Zhong Xuming concentrates on her work in the café. The notice on the counter reads: "Hello! My hearing is not good. What would you like to order, please?" [Photo by Zhang Peijian/China.org.cn]

The daily scene in the café, fresh and lovely, is a perfect delight to the eye. With a dazzling process of bean-grinding, powder-stewing, percolating and ripple-making, a beautiful, warm cup of coffee is presented to a customer with a pure and strong fragrance permeating the air.

There is a small charity-run café located at a corner of Zhejiang Fashion Institute of Technology in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province. Frequent visitors call it the "Mute Café" as all the baristas here are hearing-impaired people and the café is incredibly quiet and peaceful except for clinking cups.

Zhong Xuming is one of the baristas. She has been working for a year and can make all kinds of fine coffees that enjoy high prestige among customers.

She is a native of Ningbo. Born in 1978, she suffered drug-induced deafness at the age of five and has been living in a completely mute world ever since.

Zhong graduated in 2004 from the Changchun University in northeast China, majoring in art design. She returned to her hometown and worked as a graphic designer until 2016 when she enrolled in the campus café.

"I was eager to try a new way of life," she said. Under the guidance of a coffee master, and through perseverance and assiduous study, Zhong quickly grasped every step of coffee-making. Now, she is a professional barista as well as a staff trainer.

"Milk foam-making is the most difficult step in coffee-making," Zhong said. A normal barista can judge the right duration and degree of foam by listening to the sound of the machine; however, a deaf barista like her can only do it by feeling the vibration of the milk jar. This sets higher requirements for Zhong and her co-workers.

As the old Chinese saying goes, those who work hard will be rewarded. Zhong is now extraordinarily experienced and professional in making various kinds of fancy and snazzy latte foam patterns.

In addition, Zhang has learned skills in baking a variety of cakes, which gives her a strong sense of pride. And she likes to impart the skill to her colleagues and share the joy of success with them.

Most of the visitors to the café are young students. They have got used to communicating with the deaf baristas in sign language or through writing notes.

At the same time, the young students' tasteful dresses, make-up and temperament bring creative inspiration to Zhong, a major in art design who can quickly and skillfully put the fashionable elements into her coffee and cake-making.

In her spare time, Zhong likes to paint on the walls of the café, or draw on small stones, which have become a uniquely remarkable landscape of the café.

Zhong said her dream is to have her own café in the near future. She hopes to create jobs for more hearing-impaired people so they can live an interesting and colorful life with her help.

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