From left, portraits of Vice President William Lai, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi and former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je are pictured on coffee cups in Coffee Wait People cafe in Chiayi County's Minsyong Township. Photo: Lin Yi-chang, Taipei Times

By Lin Yi-chang and Kayleigh Madjar / Staff reporter, with staff writer

At Coffee Wait People (the beginning of the story waits for a person) in Chiayi County, customers can get a coffee personalized to more than just their taste.

Coffee cups are a canvas for owner Kao Kuo-fang (高国方), who has been drawing portraits of his customers and famous figures for more than eight years.

He does not charge extra for the artwork, saying that he does it for his own amusement, and to give his customers a nice and meaningful surprise.

Kao said he was inspired to open the cafe by the novel Cafe. Waiting. Love (waiting for a coffee), which he read while working in the restaurant industry, he said.

He opened Coffee Wait People near Minsyong Township's (民雄) industrial district about 10 years ago, serving inexpensive coffee to the employees of neighboring businesses.

Latte art was popular at the time, but it was too time consuming for his busy customers and did not last, but then he got the idea to draw on cups instead, he said.

“At first they were super ugly,” said Kao, who has no background in art and found the curvature of the cup particularly challenging to draw on.

After years of practice, he said he was gradually able to capture the essence of each of his subjects.

He would find pictures of people who liked his cafe on Facebook and draw them in his free time, then upload a photograph and tag the person.

If they liked it, they could come to the cafe to buy a coffee and take the cup home with them, he said.

Some customers have even brought photos of crushes and asked for a drawing to give as a one-of-a-kind gift, he said.

Each drawing usually takes about two hours to complete, although he will sometimes do a quick three-minute portrait of someone in the shop to give as a surprise, Kao said.

The cafe's regulars include Chiayi County Councilor Bonnie Chan and Minsyong Mayor Lin Yu-ling, who commissioned Kao to make drawings of each of her more than 30 staffers for their birthdays.

Kao often draws public figures for his own collection, including the 37 members of the Chiayi County Council, county Commissioner Weng Chang-liang (邓伦梁), Vice President William Lai (赖清德), former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (科 Wenzhe) and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (Hou Youyi).

He sometimes takes suggestions from customers and does a quick 10-minute drawing for them, he said.

“My greatest joy as a cafe owner is seeing my customers' smiling faces,” he said.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES