A hectic, rainy week called for a relaxing weekend to unwind and enjoy. So we decided to head to Yau Café, a blind massage and cafe making a difference. It is a cheerful and nature-inspired cafe offering clothed massage services for the upper body.
In Pic: Japanese-inspired wooden cubicles for a massage session
As soon as you enter the sunny and airy premises, you are struck by the realization that there is something unusual about this place. Then you figure out that the barista, as well as many members of the staff are people who are sight impaired. Yau Café is one of Hong Kong’s first ever social enterprise café that employs visually impaired baristas and masseuses to make them self-reliant and overcome their financial difficulties. The primary motto of the café is not only to be inclusive, but also to promote a caring and equitable society.
We had booked an hour-long neck and shoulder massage which was done in aesthetically designed cubicles that are sheltered from prying eyes with translucent blinds. My masseuse, Sara was a true blue Hong Konger who was very friendly and our session was peppered with interesting questions and insights into her life. Sara is partially blind, so is quite independent and manages her everyday life with a quiet aplomb. A masseuse for almost 10 years, she practices Chinese acupressure massage. This is a dry massage where the masseuse uses her fingers and elbows to press down on pressure and trigger points to massage away aches, pains, stiffness and tension in different parts of the body.
In Pic: Shobhana with a visually impaired masseuse, Sara
Winnie’s masseuse was a mother who relied on a seeing-eye dog to bring her to various massage appointments with clients in Sham Shui Po and in Sai Ying Pun. She enjoys a morning swim before working. A relaxing part of a blind massage is that there is little need to tell the masseuse about the tension points and where to release the tension. They can feel them in the dark and give the exact pressure to release some of the tension. A one-hour massage for the upper body was HK$260.
In Pic: Visually impaired baristas gainfully employed
After the massage we decided to indulge in a hot cup of coffee, which was also prepared by baristas who are visually impaired. They also provide a wide array of short eats, snacks, cookies and pastries, including ones that are vegan. All cakes and pastries are provided by other social enterprises which aim to keep people with different disabilities or needs gainfully employed.
In Pic: Latte art from sight-impaired barista
While the massage was enjoyable, without the hassle of having to change into appropriate clothing, Shobhana felt that one hour to just massage the neck and shoulders was a tad much. Having said that, Shobhana only found that she had so much stiffness and tension in her neck and shoulders until Sara told her. Winnie felt that the upper body massage (which included massaging the arms and forearms for her) was an acceptable price for prime location. A suggestion is to make the Yau Cafe website for making online appointments in English so that English-speaking customers can also access the service. Perhaps it might be a good idea to diversify their massage offerings to the best of their abilities. It is definitely pricey when you compare it with other massage parlours. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Yau is not like other parlours, as they are socially conscious and have a team of young men and women who are right on site to assist, encourage and manage their differently abled counterparts. They also have massage coupons for HK$200 each for 50 mins massage with a buy-10-get-1-free offer.
We both felt that we gained more than a massage and coffee from Yau Cafe–while we were helping others help themselves, we learnt more about the life of the visually impaired and respect for their fight to be independent and bolstered our own emotional health in the process.
Image source: https://30seconds.com/ blog article titled “Helping Others & Giving Bank: The Mind-Body & Mental
Health Benefits of Serving Others During the Holidays & Every Day”
Yau Cafe details
Address: Shop 1, G/F, Artisan House, No. 1 Sai Yuen Lane, Sai Ying Pun (next to MTR exit B3)
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11 am-7 pm
Note: Private massage in offices are also available, Yau Cafe venue available for private hire including projector & sound