I’m upstairs in the wooden Ink Coffee, Hsinchu’s 30 square metres of trendiness. Today we have Sigur Ros on the radio, last time it was Aphex Twin: could be rival for the Best Music in a Cafe award. And what’s this, I spot Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore in the little library that separates the room into two. A pang of nostalgia washes over with this music and literature combo, leaving me feeling somewhat lost.
So many coffees in this pricey and well presented menu of theirs: Kuroshio, Latte with Spices, Indian Monsoon Malabar, Costa Rica Tres Rios… I check my money and opt of a boring old cappuccino. It’s $140 dollars which is about £3. Considering the hourly wages of the Taiwanese and the price of normal groceries, coffee seems to be curiously expensive. It makes a coffee in a nice place a rare treat, rather than a daily habit. Of course you can always downgrade to Donutes or 85• but you can say goodbye to Aphex.
So you want to take your time over your slightly expensive coffee. The waitress helps you out by taking half an hour to deliver it. Today I don’t mind, I have the time, and a stack of homework to mark. The waitress apologises for the lax service and I mumble something convivial like, ‘take your time, I’m a friendly foreigner.’
For that is why I am here. I’m Teacher Adam as of last month. I’m marking the kids homework, chuckling at the amusing mistakes they make – “Yes, I like to eat the chair…”
The cappuccino comes on a wooden board in a glass, with a mini wooden spoon and a tiny metal jug for sugar. It’s not fluffy, like the capparchetype, but it is very serious and sustains the job of marking homework as it gets increasingly monotonous.
I came before with Joel and Kyle, two other teachers, just after I arrived in Hsinchu. We drank dark beers from Belgium and such places. These guys have been welcoming to me, the starry eyed and cynical newbie: they confirm my fears and accept my optimism in equal measure. As you might have guessed, these dark imported beauties have a heavy price tag too, so savour those bittery sips.
Not only is this a place for Sigur Ros, Murakami, dark beers and fine sugar, for I also started a reading group and our first meeting was here. We discussed Edward Said and Chinese food and custom, and boy, it is nice to have conversation again. We need conversations like air and love, and now I have two out of three – a personal best.