NOC Coffee Co.
34 Graham St, Central, Hong Kong
NOC is located in upper Central, close to Lan Kwai Fong. From the look of the store, this resembles a westernized Cafe. On the day I visited, there were equal amount of westerners and locals.
The interior design uses a darker theme, it is simplistic. The two tones paint (white top and taupe bottom) on unfinished concrete wall gives a rough, cold feeling. Place is a little small with a bar table along the wall and a couple of small tables, but it has a couple of outside seating. At the end of the store, there is a vault door, I suspect at one time this shop was a bank or something like that. There is a Fujikouki roaster hiding around that corner.
Similar to ACCG, NOC offers medium and dark blend of beans to their drinks. For my latte, I picked NO.34 (Ethopia, Guatemala). NOC uses a standard cafe cups, looks like to be 10 oz. Out of all the cafe so far, NOC’s latte art is probably the most complex. Although it is the usual tulip+heart design, there are many more layers and it is beautifully set across the cup. Initial taste of the latte is malty, with a chocolate finish. There is a slight berries sweetness. I find that the initial tastes of the espresso is strong, but it gets milder later. Microfoam is great and I still prefer the milk to be a little richer.
19 Shing Wong St, Central, Hong Kong
Walking distance from NOC, Common Ground is another cafe hiding in the alley away of the busier of upper Central. The shop retains a lot of the dated renovation from the 70-80s. There are glass displayers of antiques. The shop brings back the memories of the old Central. The shop is small, with an open kitchen behind a counter. I did not spend a lot of time in this shop here and the latte review was brief.
The latte is good, it is served on a tall glass. The espresso is darker and nuttier. It doesn’t have the complicated profiles like the other cafe. Microfoam and creama are great, but not as impressive. It is not as smooth.
G/F, 19 Fort Street, North Point, Hong Kong
Brew Note is a coffee roaster and they are a little different than other cafe. In a non-conspicuous residential area in North Point. The store has full length glass doors, looking from outside, it looks like a hippy and trendy place. When there are live music events happening, this place gets very crowded.
Inside the shop, the heavier equipment from Mahlkonig and Fellow Stag can be seen. Pourover or siphon is ranges from 95 to 130 with V60. Latte is $42 and it is about 8 oz. Sitting on bar, the barista weighted each shot, level and tempted. The short was pulled in about 20-30 sec. Initial tasting note: slightly acidic, strong scent on citric, and with a sweet finish. Absolutely no issues on the frothed milk. Great professionalism. Watching the way how they do cupping on pour over shows their dedication.
The specialty coffee scene in Hong Kong is gaining a lot of traction and there is a trend of supporting local businesses. Coming from North America, I find that there is very high consistency in each shop, from the timing, equipment and technique like latte art, they are formulaic. What makes each shop unique would likely come down to price, selections available and locations for most people. For the coffee geeks like myself, the selection of the espresso would be my primary reason to go back. I simply prefer the espresso to blend well with the frothed milk with a smooth finish.
Unfortunately, specialty coffee in Hong Kong still carries a premium. I talked to one of the barista, the milk being used are 4.3% from Thailand and it costs about $30/L. I am starting to understand why on average of $40 for a cup of latte to $130 for a cup of pourover in Hong Kong. These prices are barriers to mass market because it is simply not something the working class could afford. Compare to Vancouver, where majority of Latte is about CAD $4-$5 ($24) and good quality beans and organic milk is widely available. Personally, I would say the latte in Vancouver are much richer and more delicious. I think in order to promote the coffee culture in a busy city of Hong Kong, one will have to start educating the people, in a relaxed and laid back environment where each and every drop of coffee can be appreciated and enjoyed.