Did you know that Hong Kong has a Professional Coffee Association and holds an annual barista and siphonist championship competition? In recent years, while the general public is still trying to find the “best milk tea in Hong Kong”, a small group of coffee connoisseurs have been developing a strong following in the city. We’ve been introduced a new philosophy of drinking coffee – one that appreciates water temperature, bean origins, and methods of brewing. In addition, we now have the privilege of buying fresh, locally roasted beans right here in the city. Below we look at five of the city’s best artisanal coffee shops and discover why an average cup of Joe isn’t so average after all.
Stepping into Espresso Alchemy in Quarry Bay, you’d think for an instant that you’ve just walked into a coffee shop in Melbourne. It’s a rare combination to have a licensed Q grader (coffee grader), skilled bean roaster, coffee wholesaler and, not least, barista like Peter making your daily brew. Emphasising only specialty grade coffee, you can enjoy their Alchemy House Blend beans that come out surprisingly balanced and full-bodied. Or if you’re lucky, try their specialty bean offering such as the El Salvador Santa Emilio SHG. Get a whiff of the hazelnut and chocolate aroma, and you’d think you were drinking a gianduja latte. Stay for a chat and be sure to check out the jerry-rigged espresso machine by the entrance. Peter will tell you proudly that he’s created a monster – a perfect espresso machine monster, that is.
Shop 8, G/F, Ka Wing Building, 4-6 Hoi Wan Street, Quarry Bay. Tel:+852 2613-2638.
Rabbithole Coffee and Roaster
Step off the busy mid-levels escalator in Central and walk up a dark, narrow flight of stairs and open the doors to Rabbithole, where owner Mike Fung tinkers in a room full of coffee gadgets. Sit at the communal bar table and watch, or close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the steam valve whistling, burr grinder whizzing, and glasses clinking. With more than a handful of espresso machines and brewing equipment, you can take your pick of single origin beans (roasted by Mike) and preparation method. Don’t miss the ice latte – watch a beautiful shot of espresso slowly meld into the cold milk after being poured over, topped with a giant orb of ice. Its rich creamy texture with a deep coffee aroma will leave you wanting a second glass.
2/F, 26 Cochrane St, Central. Tel: +852 2581-0861
Having just moved over from their original Sheung Wan location, it seems like Knockbox has finally found a real home, set amongst a garage-lined street in Mong Kok. Owner Patrick Tam has managed to find what he considers his dream space, where he has set up their bean roaster outdoors, just behind the shop. Regulars to Knockbox may find some new and familiar things such as the guest beans, brought over by Knockbox guests, presented when available, and the new partnership with local pastry chef C.W. Wong of J’aime Bien Patisserie, offering house-made desserts that pair perfectly well with the coffee. Behind the counter a couple of halogen heated siphons are on display, alongside the espresso machines and standard coffee house gadgets. But it’s difficult not to notice the Marco Über Boiler. Having an instrument that measures water amount and temperature accurate to 0.1 degrees celsius indicates just how serious Knockbox is about coffee. One of the most important components in making great coffee is the water, thus this water device allows Knockbox to produce time after time, a perfect manually brewed cup of coffee.
G/F, 21 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tucked away in a small Sheung Wan side street, Barista Jam, run by director William So, transforms a local coffee shop into an industrial, almost 90s Seattle grunge atmosphere – except the coffee is highly refined, ditto the food. Emphasising quality drinks, William makes his espresso on a La Marzocco machine and roasts his own beans. What’s incredible – besides the dainty piccolo latte with an intensely velvety microfoam – is the fact that coffee geeks can have fun perusing the wall of coffee equipment for sale. You’ll find a range beautifully made espresso tampers, frothing mugs, stove top coffee makers, as well as home and industrial use espresso machines for sale. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to grab a seat at the bar and watch the baristas pull out shot after shot of perfect espresso, while enjoying your own brew with a piece of apple or black forest cake.
Shop D, G/F, 126-128 Jervois St, Sheung Wan. Tel: +852 2854-2211.
The Cupping Room
Good coffee can be found as far away as the sandy beach village of Stanley, at The Cupping Room. Owner and 2nd place winner of the Hong Kong Barista Championship in 2011, Derek Chiu’s relaxed, west coast California mentality reminds you to slow down a little and take in the beautiful beach scene and really take time to enjoy a cup of coffee. Derek sources the world for coffee beans, creating a monthly guest bean program for customers to enjoy. This month there is the Panama Don Pachi Geisha bean, one of the most expensive and rare beans in the world. With the exacting skill of Derek, you’d think the pour-over brew was a cup of tea from the intense jasmine and honey aromas. If you’re opting for something a little more rich, try the “magic”, Melbourne slang for a double shot flat white. It’s best to visit The Cupping Room on a weekday when you can have the entire shop to yourself and share in Derek’s enthusiasm and love for excellent coffee. Visit their Facebook page for updates on coffee workshops and an excuse to visit the beach.
207 Stanley Plaza, Stanley. Tel: +852 9316-1980.