Bear Paw Cafe helps blind twins with new store
Planting a seed
Published: Aug 08, 2022 08:11 PM
People order coffee outside Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe. Photos: IC An employee of Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe hands out a cup of coffee.

An employee of Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe hands out a cup of coffee. Photo: IC

People order coffee outside Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe. Photos: IC An employee of Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe hands out a cup of coffee. People order coffee outside Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe on July 2, 2022. Photo: IC

Twin brothers Yin Tianbao and Yin Tianyou, born blind, have been brewing their dream in a new cafe co-run with Chinese cafe brand Bear Paw Cafe in the Pudong New Area in Shanghai.

The two have never allowed their disability to hinder their efforts to explore and enjoy life.

They are skilled skateboarders and marathon runners, and are fond of playing soccer. Their latest effort to challenge their limits is running a cafe. 

They both agreed that latte art has been the most challenging task to get right.

"The milk foam is so light that it's hard for me to judge whether the coffee is almost full by sound. What I can do is to try by feeling slowly," said Tianbao, the elder brother.

Tianbao began learning coffee-making in late 2021. Soon Tianyou joined in.

"Sometimes I was not in the mood and kept failing, which frustrated me so much. I would pause for a while, and then keep practicing," recalled Tianbao about their training.

There are more challenges as their sense of space and balance is impaired due to loss of vision. They must be very familiar with the location of every utensil. 

"I accidentally put my fingers into the coffee when covering the lid, and often spilled the coffee when serving," said Tianbao.

The cafe, therefore, has been specially designed to meet their needs, with different materials representing different work areas. For example, wood is used at the cash register and steel in the cleaning zone.

The coffee machine has also undergone specific modification, with buttons of different shapes corresponding to different operations - if you push the square button, you get an espresso, and the triangular button serves a cup of Americano.

"The day finally came. We tried to make the impossible possible. It's a fresh start and Seed Cafe is under trial operation!" On July 16, Tianyou shared the news on his WeChat, which soon received many likes and encouraging comments.

Bear Paw Cafe went viral online in 2020 for its coffee being served by a bear claw poking out of a hole in the wall.

After the trial operation, the twin brothers will run the cafe without any outside help.

"From overcoming physical ­barriers to becoming baristas, ­running a coffee shop, and living on our own, all our efforts were made to live as an ordinary person," said Tianyou.

His words partly reflect how people with disabilities yearn for more opportunities to gain personal fulfillment.

According to a three-year plan issued by the State Council in April, by the end of 2021, more than 8 million disabled persons of working age had no jobs in China. 

Among the employed visually impaired, most work as masseurs or masseuses.

"People with disabilities need dignity. Sympathy, though beautiful, cannot give them a sense of dignity," said Wang Tian, founder of the Bear Paw Cafe, which also hires hearing-impaired baristas. 

"The only thing we can do is to help the disabled realize self-worth and integrate into society," Wang added.

China in recent years has stepped up efforts to create more opportunities.

A total of 1 million new jobs will be created for persons with disabilities between 2022 and 2024, according to the State Council plan.