One of the highlights is a themed area with top boutique coffee shops from 12 cities competing. [Photo by He Qi/China Daily]
"Through the training, I can now make various flavors of coffee every day to provide more variety to my customers. The practice not only improves my coffee-making skills but also allows more customers to enter our 'silent world', understand and communicate with each other to bring us closer," Hou says.
He grew up in the company of hearing-impaired people, who now visit his coffee store almost every day.
"When I see them drinking coffee while sitting around, laughing and communicating in sign language, I feel a sense of satisfaction and warmth," Hou adds.
The contest is also a key part of the "silent barista" project that was launched three years ago by Oatly, which has since sponsored barista training for over 200 hearing-impaired people.
Presently, more than 80 baristas trained under this initiative have been employed in cafes like Unibrown Coffee and Hinichijou, according to Oatly.
Other than Oatly, Meng Gong Fang coffee shop, the first employment base for youth with mental challenges in Shanghai, and Lili Time, the first coffee shop on the Chinese mainland to be certified a "B Corp" enterprise, were involved in the coffee festival this year, aimed at helping people with physical challenges secure employment in the coffee industry.
A "B Corp" enterprise is one deemed to have high standards of social and environmental performance.
"A cup of delicious coffee warms the city. A coffee project born out of love is worth investing more care in," says Chen Bai, one of the organizers of the festival.
Chen says the number of brands participating in the coffee festival has increased from 24 in 2016 to 260 this year.
"Coffee festivals can enhance the quality of surrounding businesses and generate more commercial, tourism and even accommodation consumption," says Li Zhiwei, deputy director of the Lujiazui neighborhood committee office.
"The coffee industry is a highly competitive one, and some startups and boutique coffee shops need platforms to gain more exposure and opportunities. This festival can provide them that."
The festival concluded on April 2.