Every coffee shop is different, and no one knows that better than you—the coffee shop owners who build a unique story and brand with every cup. Welcome to our next edition of Breaking New Grounds.
While Asian and Western fusion-inspired fast-casual chains are becoming more and more widespread, The Market is one of the first fusion-cuisine establishments to operate as a specialty coffee shop. Former public school art teacher Qinqin, who owns the shop, partnered with fellow artist Tehching Hsieh to convert an old 99-cent shop into a sleek, contemporary cafe. “The first week, we wanted to close!” exclaims Qinqin, saying that she thinks most cafe owners have more extensive food experience than she and Tehching did. “Our experiences are aesthetic, from art… and personal experience just from drinking tea or coffee and eating food.” They faced a steep learning curve as they tackled new arts of brewing coffee, latte art, cuppings, tasting palettes, and catering to customers under the paradigm of what Qinqin calls a “catch-22.” “You want your customers to like what you’re serving, but you also don’t want to compromise. You want to have your own character.”
In fact, the two didn’t realize at first that they did have their own unique character. Through trial and error, Qinqin and Hsieh realized that they possessed a genuine understanding not only of New York culture, but also of their own backgrounds (Qinqin is Chinese and Hsieh is Taiwanese). This meant they could cater their store to local markets while also drawing inspiration from their roots to develop innovative fusion-inspired menu items—such as a seasonal drink made from rose petals, goji berries, and ginger, ingredients used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Other items include their own house-brewed chai concentrate and turmeric ginger lattes. The pair enjoys tailoring these items to combine their heritage and culinary experience. “It’s really fun for us…and we care about the impact it has on your health,” explains Qinqin. One customer gets a turmeric ginger latte from The Market every morning, and ever since she started her doctor has been asking how she’s been improving her vitals so effectively. She says she attributes it all to the lattes.
The Market’s Asian-fusion influences are also present in their food menu, which offers items far beyond the pastry case staples typically expected from coffee shops. The menu currently features items inspired by Qinqin’s native Szechuan cuisine as well as Japanese or Korean items such as miso soup or kimchi, though the pair started small with locally sourced dumplings. In fact, sourcing is one of the owners’ largest concerns. Their coffee is provided by Grumpy Coffee Roasters, and the tea by SerendipiTea. Specialty Chinese ingredients must be tracked down to various herbal shops, which offer ingredients from organic turmeric to purple and blue Tibetan goji berries. “It’s a good time to mix different kinds of culture,” Qinqin muses. After all, The Market may be located in Brooklyn but Brooklyn—and on a larger level, all of New York—means so many different things.
The Market’s Clinton Hill location attracts a customer base of art students, freelancers, and longtime local residents. Qinqin herself has been located in Brooklyn for 13 years and has been able to observe firsthand its gradual gentrification. “Sometimes people on Yelp comment that this is the Asian place with lots of Caucasian hipsters. But I’m Chinese and my partner is Taiwanese,” Qinqin says. “The Market really, authentically reflects who we are as people. It’s not that Chinatown Chinese place, but it’s still honest [to our heritage].” In fact, many children, families, and Asian students frequent The Market as well- people from all walks of life, and people who might not fall into preconceived demographics. “We are all a different mixture of cultures ourselves,” says Qinqin, of herself and Tehching. “[The Market] is really for everybody… The actual space is an extension of your inner world. Everybody’s different, so if you are just honest and true to yourself, your place will be different.”
“When you are honest, that means you are really serving food that is deeply connected to your personal experience,” Qinqin says. “You will be amazed to see how open people are to another culture.”
You can find The Market at 372 Lafayette Ave in Brooklyn.