Hong Kong is a well-known city for coffee lovers. And if you weren’t a coffee lover before, you will be after you live. Hong Kong is a crossroads of coffee beans from all over the world—South America, Africa, Australia and Asia—and many of the lots found in local coffee shops are from organic and Fair Trade micro-farms. Coffee roasters trace their beans right down to the lot and date they were picked, along with the variety of coffee bean and particular roasting technique.
On top of that, you can find nearly every brewing technique invented deployed through Hong Kong coffee shops. You’ll find “vac” pots, vertical two-chamber structures invented in Europe in the late 1800s that lift water up by vapor pressure, gently deposit it on freshly roasted grounds, and suck the grounds dry as the liquid returns to the bottom chamber, resulting in deeply fragrant coffee.
You’ll also find that siphon pots, a rare sight in most of the coffee-drinking world, are common here. And cold-brewed coffees, which are time and labor intensive, are sold in bottles to be served over ice—a popular and refreshing drink in Hong Kong’s sometimes sweltering climate.
Here are some of the top spots to visit in Hong Kong. Knowledgeable baristas will help you choose a coffee experience that’s right for you, and will be happy to answer all your questions about beans, sources, and techniques.
18 Grams, a small boutique Hong Kong coffee shop with only a few locations, hires knowledgeable baristas and uses fresh milk. Baristas are trained by the legendary Ivy Lai, who recently won the New York Coffee Fest Latte Art competition. Expect only the finest latte art here! With arguably the best staff in Hong Kong, 18 Grams can identify the country, farm or micro-lot, and also the varietal and processing method of every coffee bean. Each site also has its own house blend, selected according to the local demographic — so the house blend roasts range from smooth to percussive. A little pricier than standard, but well worth the extra cost, 18 Grams has been voted “Must-go Coffee Shop” by Weekend Magazine for the last three years in a row. Siphon, pourover, Aeropress and cold brews are all served here. The hot coffees are served at exactly 60 degrees Celsius : warm enough to be drunk in one sip, but not so hot as to destroy the natural protein sweetness in the milk.
Address: 15C Canon Street, Causeway Bay (also has others shops Mong Kok, Causeway Bay, Sai Kung, Sheung Wan, Wan Chai, Tsim Sha Tsui)
Coffee Academics on Causeway Bay is a barista academy and restaurant with some of the best coffee and coffee concoctions in the city. The academy’s certification is a globally recognized qualification that attracts and trains serious students for barista careers around the world. On top of that, the coffee shop attracts many travelling businessmen, particularly those in the digital nomad. It is seen as a good place to network and find new clients.
Each month, Coffee Academics treats its wealthy international clientele to a “Globally Inspired Coffee,” a unique beverage that recalls well-known sights in other countries. Recent innovations include a fresh Fuji apple juice topped with an iced macchiato — a texture that pays homage to the snow-covered caps of Mount Fuji. For guests who want to host a corporate event — or, for that matter, a fancy party — Coffee Academics also offers a high-class event management service.
Address: 38 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay
Knockbox Coffee takes artisanal coffee to new heights, and the service is friendly and knowledgeable. At Knockbox, you will find estate coffee beans documented down to the lot, and fresh roasted every week. Knockbox serves everything from Aeropress, iced drip, pourover and siphon coffees. They also serve Cascara—a spiced tea made from leftover coffee cherries.
This coffee shop is notable for its philosophy that coffee brewing is an expression of art — the end product of years of nurturing and training by farmers and brewers alike. In keeping with this philosophy, Knockbox does not serve decaffeinated coffee, so as to give a good mug of coffee the chance to speak for itself.
Address: G/F, 21 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Zai Fe translates from Cantonese as ‘strong black coffee’ and this is where you’ll find some of the best espressos in Hong Kong. Founders Freda Lai, Wendy Tsui and Tim Shepherd started the business in response to frustration with artificial syrups and flavors found in many average coffee shops throughout the city. There’s not a syrup bottle in sight here — mochas are made with real Belgian chocolate and natural organic milk. Unusually, Zai Fe cups feature collectible designs by local artists and brands, which gives a very eclectic, individualistic feel to the place. The shop also offers infused foams made of 100% organic ingredients—lemon and lavender, peppered orange, salted caramel and spicy chili to name a few. Take away orders can ask for a shot of Scotch whiskey or USA bourbon cream.
Address: 22-28 Finnie Street, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong (also has other shops in Central and Kwun Tong)
Elephant Grounds, a hipster joint on Gough Street in the back of the WOAW store, is a popular destination for those who appreciate flavor variety, but not the sweet, candy bar flavors of most syrups. The vanilla latte is light on sugar while delivering a solid vanilla bean flavor. Elephant Grounds uses its Probat vintage roaster to roast single farm batches ranging from fruity and perfumed, to darkly exotic.
The desserts served here also echo the emphasis on flavor and go light on sugar—resulting in a memorable coffee-dessert tasting experience.
Address: 11 Gough Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong (also has other shops in Causeway Bay and Wong Chuk Hang)
Coco Espresso is a well known Hong Kong favorite, in spite of its small size. Or at least, the original shop on Queen’s Road West is so tiny, if you blink you’ll miss it. The shop has recently expanded into a few more spacious locations, but it’s still considered a small, boutique business. It features all kinds of brews, including a high-tech siphon. Their cold-brewed coffee takes 18 hours to produce just 10 cups. Several of their baristas are champions in Hong Kong and international barista competitions, and the site as a fresh and lively Facebook presence.
Address: G/F, 197 Queens Road Central (also has other shops in Kwai Chung, Wan Chai, Stanley Street)
Which of these coffee shops is your favorite haunt? Let us know in the comments below!