A speciality coffee scene brews in Hong Kong
When Tam is not roasting his beans himself, he relies on local micro-roaster Fresh Coffee and Tea (based in North Point) for top-quality beans. Other local coffee roasters include Coffee Assembly, a pioneer that began roasting in 2006, and Glory Coffee and Fahrenheit 500, both of which supply roasted beans for 18 Grams and Espresso Alchemy.
Thanks to this new breed of coffee bars, those looking for a serious coffee education, or just a great cup, have more choice than ever before. In the western district of Sheung Wan, in addition to Knockbox, there is Coco Espresso and Barista Jam, both of which excel in Australian-style espresso drinks and brewed options. Barista Jam, with its cool grey concrete façade, is a favourite among home-brewers, who come to down expertly-made ristrettos (a shorter, purer shot of espresso), and stock up on raw green coffee beans and professional tools. Farther east, in Quarry Bay, are veteran siphon specialists Xen Coffee and newcomer Espresso Alchemy (appearing on the scene in March 2012), the latter pitching itself defiantly next to a branch of a McCafé, a McDonald’s spin-off. In addition to regular coffee tasting and latte art lessons, customers are inadvertently educated each time they sit down and have a read of the menu – the incredible amount of detail about each single origin coffee bean (including the altitude at which it was grown) goes beyond that of any other café at the moment.
Or head to the Cupping Room in Stanley, on Hong Kong island’s southern tip. Opened in December 2011, Derek Chiu (runner-up in the 2011 Hong Kong Barista Championship, the precursor to the annual World Barista Championship) regularly hosts tasting sessions and recently introduced a guest roaster of the month programme to showcase espresso blends and single origin beans from acclaimed brands around the world (Maryland’s Ceremony Coffee Roasters and California’s Klatch Coffee made recent appearances). Housed in the ultra-modern Stanley Plaza shopping centre but tucked away on its quiet upper levels, The Cupping Room is a welcoming space blending industrial design details (exposed ducts, white brick walls, wood-top tables) and warm, personable service. Like at many of Hong Kong’s new cafes, interaction with the baristas is encouraged and the coffee-making process is transparent.
“I want to get people together,” said Rabbithole’s Fung. “We try to educate people by making their coffee right in front of them. It’s not that we’re trying to show off – we actually want you to see how coffee is made. You can see exactly what is going on here, whether the barista is making a good shot or not. [Hong Kongers are] thinking, maybe I’ve had enough of chain coffee. They’re saying ‘I want something better’. So that’s why we’re here.”