Sandglass Cafe is a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it repurposed house off the main Nanluogu Xiang artery. For a cafe that was half empty, the service was pretty crappy and I awkwardly hung around waiting to ask for the Wi-Fi password and to order a coffee.
While the Wi-Fi didn’t disappoint, the green tea latte (RMB 35) was a lesson in expectation management when it comes to hutong coffee. The Matcha powder floated on top of the milk and clung to the sides of the cup instead of flavoring my drink with its green tea goodness. A sign outside claims that they brew their own coffee, but it’s debatable as to whether I’ll ever be back to try it.
I’m torn when it comes to deciding on the best seat in the house because the extension cord is located at a small table for two while I personally favor the long wooden table that only comes with a wall plug. If the two could be married, I’d probably be more willing to put discerning taste aside and swallow the chalky mess of Matcha.
However, my biggest complaint has to do with the music played throughout the cafe. The soundtrack, flip-flopping between traditional Chinese instrumentals and karaoke versions of pop singles, pointed to a deranged DJ out to make working impossible. While I’m all for the cafe buzz, the differences in music genres gave my ears whiplash.
A similar degree of cohesion is evident in the decor, but at least in this case, it works. A sea of orphaned books and magazines fill the shelves and photos of Chinese girls stare at you from the walls. Add an artfully placed globe, sewing machine, vintage piggy bank, coin collection and dried (read: dead) flowers, and you’ve got a scene that doesn’t even need a filter.
Truthfully, this is a cafe you’d want to be seen at without actually having to be there.
Vibe and design (how cool you’ll look working): 5/5
Points for authentic hutong feel, exposed beams and a certain organized chaos
Productivity (how much you’ll get done): 2/5
The bipolar music and bad lighting isn’t quite made up for by the Wi-Fi
Maoer Hutong No. 1, Nanluoguxiang
This piece is part of the quest to find and evaluate cafes as mobile offices throughout Beijing, read the first post here.
Follow my caffeine addiction on Instagram @xheatherrrr, or join me by tagging your pictures with #cafehoppingbj.
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on July 13, 2014.
Photos by Heather Budimulia