A banquet for the birth of a friend’s daughter recently took my brother Andrew and I to Hong Kong.
I had a free day during my stay there and I was keen to use it to see what was happening in the world of coffee in Hong Kong. My good friend and old high school mate Danny, who has lived in Hong Kong for years, provided me with a great list of cafés to visit. My aim was to visit the better independent cafés in town. My other good friend (also from my old high school) Romano, provided the wheels – an Aston Martin Vantage. An Aston is definitely the way to travel in Hong Kong! The traffic’s a little scary at the best of times but parking is never an issue with a car like this as the parking attendants fall over themselves offering to park it at even the smallest of hotels.
There are certainly a lot more cafés in Hong Kong now compared to when I used to live there in the 90’s.
The one stand-out café proved to be Coco Espresso (G/F, 197 Queen’s Road – just past Cosco tower). Head Barista Johnson came highly recommended and did not disappoint. It was not until I arrived that I realised that Matt had actually trained him and his boss Josephine at Barista Basics Coffee Academy in Sydney. The café is small and there’s little or no room to sit down. On the way in, some expat clients told me he was the best barista in Hong Kong. You can see on the video above, he is a free-pouring legend. The big difference with Johnson and most others I met is that Johnson is extremely passionate about what he is doing. (For many in Hong Kong, unfortunately it is just a job).
Benjamin Li at TATA Global Ltd (Suite 401, 4/F, Kamming House, #49 Queen’s Road Central, Central) is extremely passionate about coffee. Benjamin made me a great coffee from Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee and a top espresso from a blend he roasted on-site. He is the local distributor for Jamaica Blue Mountain and has visited the coffee fields there on one of his overseas trips. TATA is not a sit down café but he has a good range of beans for local home baristas and is easy to get to in Central Hong Kong.
Segafredo (33 Wellington Street, Central) produced a good Italian espresso and would be the place to get an espresso in that part of town. Their baked goods were great with the coffee I ordered.
Lan Fong Yuen (No. 2, Gage St, Central) is well known around the world for their local food, tea and coffee and a worthy visit for locals and tourists alike. A couple from Calgary were at the table next to me when I was there. The coffee is made in the traditional Chinese manner and was very strong. Strong enough to keep the biggest of truck drivers from falling asleep at the wheel!
Crema Café (67 Mody Road Shop G36, G/F Peninsula Centre TST) was an interesting place. There was a language barrier here so I am not 100% sure what beans were used in my espresso. It was strong and well-made. I do know they were roasting on-site and at least some of the beans were from India. Like Johnson at Coco Espresso, these young baristas really seemed to have passion for what they were doing and were enjoying making and serving me their best espresso.
Nine cafes and a banquet lunch at the top floor of the Mandarin Hotel with Danny, May and brother Andrew made for a busy day. Luckily I was not too tired to go for a big Chinese dinner and then drinks with all our friends at the new Mandarin Hotel bar.
The summary: You can certainly get a good coffee in Hong Kong. If you are lucky you will visit a place like Coco Espresso and get a great coffee. In my mind, if a barista is passionate you will taste it in the cup. I think some of the cafés need to consider this when employing their baristas. But this is not new. It is true in every country of the world! I can’t wait to visit again.
Other places visited:
Fuel Espresso in IFC mall – Shop 3023 (NZ chain)
Eat Right – 23 Staunton Street SOHO – lane running along the side of Pure Gym in Soho
Coffee Assembly – Cockloft, No.6 Elgin Street, Central (local roaster, coffee shop only opens on Thurs-Sun)
Caffé Vergnano – IFC Mall – Shop 2097
Popularity: 36% [?]