By Noah Kaufman
Updated October 06, 2014
© © Lou Linwei / Alamy

Breathing clean air in Chinese cities is a somewhat disturbing luxury. According to an assessment done this year, particulate matter in China’s most polluted cities is nearly 10 times that of America’s most polluted cities. (If you’ve ever been to America’s worst offender, Bakersfield, California, you have a sense of how bad that is.) It’s gotten so bad in China that scientists are comparing it to nuclear winter. As an innovative response, Beijing developer Hongkun is collaborating with an eco-friendly design firm called Penda on Home Café, a space filled with air-purifying plants.

Modular planters made of repurposed steel and wood will hold no-fuss greenery like sword ferns and marble queens, which are among the best at cleaning the air around them and will grow to cover the walls. Each café will also have pots filled with freshly brewed coffee and aromatic herbs to provide natural room fragrance.

The first two locations are opening in Beijing and Tianjin; the goal is to expand throughout China. They won’t fix the world’s most polluted air, but the cafés will at least offer citizens a break from smog and a reminder of what clean air smells like.

Check out pictures of the café below.