Project main colour swatch

PSEUDO CAFÉ was a temporary resting space that was attempting to revitalize a former coffee shop by serving tea – with handmade digital and analogue memory keepers available to order. In this café, everything was manufactured as a way to preserve what was dying or to build an imitation of a happy life. Opened only when downtown Calgary was closed.

Opened Tuesday to Sunday from 6 pm to 9 pm, July 27th ~ August 12, 2018

This project was developed out of the 2018 WRECK CITY residency.

Property Ownership Contract

The customer is welcome to acquire a property known as a memory keeper. To obtain a memory keeper, the customer must understand and sign the contract:

Memory Keepers: Practical Luxury USBs & Modern Natural Notepads

Modern Natural Notepads

3 x 2 x 1/2″

Resin (with assorted materials such as glitter, stickers, ink, dried flowers, paper pulp), copy paper, scrap wood

100 editions

Practical Luxury USBs

2.25 x 3/4 x 1/4″

Resin (with assorted materials such as dried flowers, fake plastic plants, plastic gems, cherry stems), wood, 1gb USD drive

100 editions

Each USB contained an assortment of files and resources accumulated over the duration of the residency that precluded the project opening, such as:

Tea of the Day

Each day, two different teas were offered for free while supplies lasted.


[Custom blend of black teas, evaporated milk, condensed milk]

This robust, full-bodied, creamy dreamy drink is inspired by Hong Kong milk tea (lai cha), which was in turn imitating the way the British colonists were drinking their tea. Normally made with true craftsmanship of aerating and straining the tea multiple times using a tea cloth, this dream drink is made by transferring the tea between mugs a few times, kinda like Malaysian milk tea (teh tarik)!


[Roasted glutinous rice, roasted brown rice, roasted corn]

Even at the bottom of a burnt pot lies inspiration. This is inspired by a Korean tea (sungnyung) you make when there are cooked rice stuck onto the bottom of the pot. Instead of scrapping it out, you put water into the pot and let it boil. Out comes a nutty, slightly sweet concoction of a drink as well as all that rice! This particular tea isn’t made that way, but it is pretty close! It still uses real rice, just made in a rice cooker.


[Black tea, honey, lemon]

Ever feel like your throat just needs some tender soothing? Also need help with digestion? Weight loss? A sense of direction in life? Then Throat Soother is for you! Combining the strong tannin of the black tea with the sourness of the lemon and floral sweetness of the honey, this is a refreshing drink even when everything in your life is fine.


[Roasted barley, roasted corn, roasted dandelion, sugar]

It’s not really tea if there’s no tea leaves in a tea. Otherwise they’re just infusions of things. So for those caring about the technicalities of terms, this tea has the barest of tea just to say it’s actually a tea, even if there’s very little of it. This Barely Tea is 97% roasted grains that bring on a strong nutty flavour that’s then mellowed by the dandelion and sugar. The green tea is just an additive to legitimize it as a tea.


[Roasted oolong]

Somewhere between green tea (lightly oxidized) and black tea (highly oxidized) lies oolong, writhing little dragons that are about as complicated and varied to the Chinese as black tea is for the British. Along with Pu-er tea, oolong is the tea of choice for those interested in ceremony and the complexity of flavours. But ceremony and complexity are tiring sometimes, so this tea is roasted just so you don’t have to worry about ritual or imperial importance.


[Corn, glutinous rice]

The Pacific Ocean is quite large and plant pollination is a little hard, but humans are very good at carrying non-native things to places they shouldn’t be. This Sweet Colonel takes the ocean and brings corn and rice together to mingle and muse about colonialism, or something. Really nutty but kind of sweet, just what you need to keep you going towards the horizon.


[Roasted green tea, lemon, sugar]

Roasted green tea (hojicha) is processed through roasting rather than steaming, making it less caffeinated and astringent than the normie kind. The caramel-y flavour of the tea pair with the lemon-y lemon and topped with the sugar, makes it an ideal tea for the mildly-mannered but perky drinker.


[Barley, rice, corn]

This is a cereal for everyone, at anytime of the day! This rather un-milky cereal combines three of the most popular kinds of grain teas and puts them into one drink, just to see what would happen! What we have is a roast fest that’s strong and meal-y, but also a little sweet and warm.



Sometimes even tea is hard to prep and all you want is some creamy, malty milk drink that’s equally as warm and comforting as tea (or maybe I just want to indulge in nostalgia.) What was once a supplementary drink for developing nations and Commonwealth and British colonies, is now a trademark flavour in those countries. Essentially drunk like tea (for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, pre-sleep time), enjoy this Cheat Day drink!


[Green tea, roasted glutinous rice]

In what used to be a drink for the economically disadvantaged or for those religiously fasting, this green tea with rice [genmaicha] was meant lower the price and be a filler for cheaper tea. But this ain’t genmaicha because the rice, though roasted, ain’t popped like popcorn. In a way, it’s a cheaper, lesser version of an already cheap, less version of green tea. Or maybe it’s a humbler version of genmaicha, for those positivists.


[Orange pekoe, evaporated milk, sugar}

Pekoe is a Western grading system used to determine the quality and leaf size of a generic black tea. Why it’s called pekoe? It’s uncertain from whence the name came, but likely an anglicization of a Chinese word. Why orange? Also uncertain from whence the word came because it doesn’t taste like an orange fruit. Could have something to do the Dutch East Indies and the House of Orange-Nassau (who also made carrots orange) or how the tea looks orange when steeped. Enjoy this generic tea of uncertain origin with milk and sugar, just like a regular joe would.


[Roasted brown rice]

Sometimes life doesn’t have to be so complicated. Sometimes all you need is just the subtle essence of rice to warm your soul.


[Roasted oolong, evaporated milk, condensed milk}

Sometimes when something is just so good, you want to recreate that sensation again – even that thing you want to recreate was recreated from something else. Taking the exact recipe of Cream Dream, this scheming drink wonders what it would taste like when replacing black tea with roasted oolong. With the subtle caramelization of the already complex oolong, conceptually, this drink sounds like it should work!


[Roasted corn]

Sometimes life doesn’t have to be so complicated. Sometimes all you need is just the subtle corniness of corn to warm your soul.


[Green tea, lemon, honey]

Ever think your stomach needs some soothing? Need help with indigestion? Weight loss? A sense of placement in life? Then Stomach Soother is for you! Combining the light body of green tea with the zest of lemon and floral sweetness of honey, this is a light and refreshing drink even when everything in your life is fine.


[Roasted barley]

Sometimes life doesn’t have to be so complicated. Sometimes all you need is just the brashness of barley to warm your soul.


[Green tea]

Sometimes one just needs a simple cup of tea after a hard day or week at work. Or just another uncomplicated delight before life become tedious again during the work week. A nicely brewed green tea with no frills or things to hide – just like an honest, hard working person.


[Roasted corn, honey]

This drink takes the guilty pleasure that is corn bread and removes the guilt of bread but leaves the pleasure of flavour. Adding to the natural sweetness of corn, honey makes this drink perhaps a little too decadent. But you only live once, as they say, so why not just forget the consequences for little bit?


[Chilled roasted oolong]

This warm, caramelized oolong tea packs a strong, more robust punch when it’s been chilling in the fridge. The lightly natural sweetness is also more noticeable, as if to say it knows it’s good enough as it is without extras and frills.   


[Chilled roasted barley, sugar]

Want something to remind you of the large, open blue sky with rows of golden stocks stretching to the horizon? Or maybe you’ve never experienced that but want to know what that might feel like? This drink will certainly try to make you remember or make you imagine that scenario. The roasted nuttiness of the barley combined with the light sugar just might make you wish you were out in the summer heat with this chilled drink!


[Chilled masala chai, evaporated milk, sugar]

When the British couldn’t contain their insatiable consumption of tea and didn’t want to pay the Chinese for the leaves, they established their own supply in the then British colonies of India and Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka.) Masala (mixed-spices) chai (tea) is a creation that combines the native herbs and spices found in the South Asia geographic region with the tea drinking style of Britain. Now popular worldwide, this is tea is a favourite as a coffee alternative. Just don’t say tea after chai.



It’s summer time and getting a little hot. Rather than cooling down to beat the heat, you can instead just sleep until the world becomes bearable again, assuming it ever becomes like that. Popular as a drink before bed time as a caffeine-free relaxant, this warm drink is perfect to prep your already extra warm body into unconscious land.


[Chilled roasted green tea]

This roasted green tea’s (hojicha) already distinctive nutty and caramel flavours become even more bold when chilled out a bit. Many of the coffee-like characteristics hidden beneath the heat of a freshly brewed cup become more notable. As the colder liquid mixes with the body temperature in your mouth, it’s sure to wake you up to new senses.


[Chilled roasted corn, roasted rice, honey]

This drink was inspired by the thought of side dishes and how underrated they can be. In the summer, BBQ corn is an understated but almost essential food to balance out the heaviness of heat. For those that don’t own a rice cooker but make rice with a pot, often the rice that get stuck in the bottom are considered a nuisance to clean rather than a tasty snack. And honey is just always great to consume.


[Chilled ceylon, lemon, sugar]

Ceylon is a black tea that hails from Sri Lanka – Celyon being its former British colony name as well. These days, a variety of this drink can be found in ready-to-drink form inside a yellow and green juice box. Just as in the past, this is a special concoction that helps keep the smoggy heat at bay. This drink is recommended to be consumed while laying down on a floor and sipped slowly, to maintain optimal cooldown time. Consuming this too fast will result in sadness and nostalgia.


[Assortment of teabags]

Ever find yourself with tea in your cabinet in a forgotten corner? Ones you once drank but didn’t once the weather or your mood changed? Or those gifted to you because once you said to someone, “wow I kinda like teas with some fruit,” then ended up with a box of fruity tea you drank a few times but only kinda liked? Or maybe they’re the tea you really liked but didn’t want to finish, so you kept some for those special occasions and now there are only two bags left and you also don’t know what to do with them. Of your choosing (while supplies last), there are just as many varieties of teabags for you to choose as there are reasons why they were left behind. Guaranteed consumable. Freshness, not so much.


[Earl grey tea, milk, sugar]

Tea was originally consumed by all manners of people in loose leaf form with no or very little add-ons, like rice or lemons – both native to Asia. These add-ons were originally to make teas cheaper or to mask the flavours of cheap leaves. First consumed in Southwestern China, it spread northwards to reach the Korean peninsula and the island of Japan, and then also southward to Vietnam. The Portuguese and Dutch merchants first introduced tea to Europe. Then the British got ahold of these leaves, the first being sold in a coffeehouse. Black tea with milk and sugar was favoured over green loose leaf tea for its bolder and stronger character, as it’s similar to coffee, and for its ability to retain its flavour over long periods of time. Tea was very expensive – which were heavily taxed and considered a luxury, was drunk on special occasions by the rich. This lead to extensive smuggling operations that allowed for everyone to enjoy this drink. The British people enjoyed this drink so much, they made British-controlled India harvest and produce black tea to bypass buying from China. It also helped in leading to the Opium Wars and the American Revolution.

Anyway, fresh milk and sugar were also luxury products – especially in colonies and Commonwealth countries, where canned milk was used instead. Milk and sugar also signified the differences between the colonizer and colonized, or the cultured and the one to be modernized. This particular tea style is consumed in all hours of the day in the UK, this tea having become an integral part of its cultural fabric and identity.


[Decaf coffee in teabags]

Sick of tea but like how easy they are to make? Want coffee instead but feeling too lazy? Well, who needs to go through the tedium of brewing coffee with machines when you can get coffee in teabag form? As easy as tea, this coffee can be steeped and enjoyed in your own style! Worried about caffeine? Well these are decaffeinated, which means 99.99% of what makes coffee so popular and addictive are removed. But in like some tea cultures where tea is consumed after dinner or right before bed, this coffee too can be drunk at any time of the day. Portable and user friendly, even on a lazy day you too can enjoy coffee!


[Black tea blend, coffee, chicory, milk, sugar]

Pseudo Café was inspired by the Hong Kong style milk tea with coffee drink yuenyeung (Kopi Cham in Malaysian), which is named after the Chinese word for mandarin ducks. These ducks symbolize lifelong marriage and love in East Asian cultures. The name is also used in Cantonese as a term for a pair of unlike things, as the female and male ducks look very different from each other. So yuenyeung is a drink that marries two unlike things – tea and coffee, to create a sort of harmony. The consumption of coffee as well as tea with milk and sugar, were ideas imported into Chinese cultures via colonialism. It is a drink that was reimagined and appropriated by a more powerful entity, then reintroduced to the culture of origin, and was then made into its own original drink. That such a poetic name was given to something which contains a complex history of imperialism and socio-economic conflicts, presents a hope of a future in spite of the past, but also a nihilism in recognizing it’s an existence that’s just an imitation of something that was once authentic.


[Roasted barley, roasted corn, dandelion, milk, sugar]

Pseudo-De-Café is an un-caffeinated drink that takes the Pseudo-Café drink and removes and imitates the components that symbolizes a café: tea and coffee. It takes the dandelion root – a sometimes coffee replacement, with the ingredients not normally used for tea in Western cultures and combines them to create a flavour that may or may not taste like tea and/or coffee. A true Pseudo Café special!

Photos by Mike Tan