Special Feature: Journey for Best Latte in Hong Kong – Part 1

Getting a great cup of joe in Hong Kong is difficult, the busy city has a abundance of chain coffee shops like Starbuck and Pacific Coffee and fast foods like McCafe that offer an impressive menu of coffee. However, these coffees are targeted to the general public and the lack of consistency. McCafe at 2 different locations could have different tasting coffee, thus getting a good cup of joe from these chains is a lottery. If you ask a normal Hong Konger about specialty coffee, many would say “Starbucks” 🙈 or Pacific Coffee.

There are many small hidden shops around town that serves great coffee from passionate people.

I find that the specialty coffee culture in Hong Kong is quite different than North America. I suspect it is due to the influence of nearby countries like Taiwan and Japan, many of them resemble some designs over there. For one, many cafe serves full meal and lots of waffles; drinks seems to be the complementary items to go with the meal.

 

Coffee Alley

Room B1-B3, 1/F, Dragon Rise, 9-11 Pennington Street, Causeway Bay

Coffee Alley has two shops in Hong Kong. It is a Taiwanese chain store that resembles cafe in Japan. Upon walking into the store, a few cold brew towers are tucked in corner with signs of constant usage. The shop has a bright post-modern decor with a wall full of small fake plants.

The Latte serves on a uniquely look mug, it comes with a stick of cane sugar sweetener and a couple pieces of butter cookies. The presentation is attractive. Butter cookies are not sweet and go well with the latte.

The Latte is sweet, it has a mild body and quite easy going. The espresso is strong and it tastes like charcoal roasted. I think the included sweetener would be good fit for those who are not coffee drinker. The micro foam is nicely done and it is served at the right temperature. The only thing I would complain would be the frothed milk lacks creaminess, it doesn’t tastes as rich as I would like.

Great technique and uniquely roasted coffee, and pretty presentation.

 

The Alchemist Creative Coffee by GaBee

Shop B227, B2/F, K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road,, Tsim Sha Tsui

ACCG is hidden in the basement of a high end shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. It resembles a traditional North American cafe with bar tables, high chairs and open kitchen. The long name suggests creative coffee? The shop primarily uses grid, IKEA Kallax shelves, each one is filled with mugs and other shop essentials and hanged on all the walls. The coffee bar is located towards the entrance of the store and the open kitchen is tucked towards the back. I like this layout a lot because the coffee bar is facing outwards and can attract lots of mall traffics.

All of their coffee beverage can be served with a choice of North or South Italian Roast Blend. They are roasted to medium dark and each profile is listed on the menu. To most cafe, the espresso is the “soul” of the shop, and I am quite surprised even espresso gets a choice. I enjoy Ethiopian coffee due to their brighter profile, I without a doubt would use that instead.

The latte being served looks like to be 12 oz, but for $38 when other charges upward $50 I can accept a smaller cup. The cup was handed to me luke warm. The wait person also handed me a spoon. The microfoarm looks very fine and consistent. The “heart” was pulled beautifully. Upon first sip, the foam layer tasted a little cold, and the hotter milk is at underneath it. The difference in temperature is surprising because I took the sip a minute after being served to me. I think the latte must be sitting on the counter for a bit before being served. The temperature is slightly lower than normal. Is this why I was handed a spoon? Am I drinking this wrong?

Great looking shop, quiet atmosphere. I can sit in here all day.

 

Espresso Alchemy

Shop 8, G/F, No.4-6 Hoi Wan Street, Quarry Bay

Espresso Alchemy is a small chain (3 stores), this one I am visiting is located in Quarry Bay and is walking distance to MTR or Tramway.  This shop is narrow but long, half of the store is the kitchen and beverage bar, the other half is the seating area. There are some bigger tables for 4 located at the rear of the store. Because of the narrow store, everything feels more intimate.

The kitchen serves full lunch with a small selection of salad and pasta. This is a open kitchen and patrons can see the meals are being prepped. The chef is quite friendly and is not shy to talk about just everything. I notice the barista calls out customers by name so I imagine this is quite popular shop in this neighborhood when there is a McDonald just next door.

The barista is quite skillful, and the tastes can reflect that. The espresso is easy going, with a sweetness of vanilla and milk chocolate. There is some slight bitterness but all is neutralized via the perfectly steamed and frothed milk. To be fair, I quite enjoy this decent cup of latte, particularly the dark semi-sweet chocolate after-taste is great.

The cost of the latte is $41, which is fair and align with the market.

 

To be Continued on Part 2…