Quickly upon meeting any of team waterfalls&caribous, you learn something pretty crucial about us – we love coffee and have been known to go to great lengths to hunt it out, to binge drink it in the spirit of research, to cry over it (well, Dan has), to make friends and enemies according to our coffee experiences – Dan has even been known to pull his barista weight and get himself behind the machine in some pretty impressive locations…flat white at the Great Wall, anybody?!
Yes, we’re stuck up about our coffee. We’re used to it a certain way – the CORRECT way – in a certain cup (depending on the coffee type) and a great atmosphere is always appreciated too. Flouting such know-it-all authority like its our universe-given right has led friends, workmates and acquaintances to buy into our hype and ask for our recommendations on where to go for great caffeine. In Korea, the answer might have been “없어요” it doesn’t exist/cannot/don’t have/there isn’t…usually accompanied by arms crossed in an x-shape and directed about a thousand times a day at us during our time there whenever we asked for, well, pretty much anything. Luckily here in Hong Kong there are loads of not only adequate but fantastic places! That’s not to say all places here are great – of course, crap still exists which is why this list will come in handy.
A quick guide to our to guide (hehe) – Dan as a matter of course drinks flat whites. If you do not know what this is, head straight to Espresso Alchemy to be schooled. There are many poor imitations lurking in the streets of Hong Kong but EA does it perfectly. It’s an antipodean construct – therefore we have the birthright to be highly fussy. H-J varies in her coffee drinkage, slutting her way around soy flat whites, long blacks, espressos and, in more recent times, decaf. Though thankfully, that’s being phased back out again. Next, we are only telling you about coffee, not food. Eating is cheating. Finally, most of these cafes do espresso based coffee drinks only, however the entries marked with stars offer specialist single origin coffees as well and, accordingly, the appropriate means of preparation.
There are other places that people equally as stuck up about coffee will recommend but (1) Sheung Wan has more cafes opening on a weekly basis that we could ever be bothered or rich enough to sample; (2) we look at the whole experience including service which ultimately knocks off more places than you could imagine here; and, (3) it’s our list, so we’ll include what we want to. Without further adieu, we will lead you through our faves and save you the hassle of unpredictable bad coffee. Gosh we’re kind.
One of the first “proper” coffees we had in Hong Kong was at this hole-in-the-wall cafe in Second Lane. The coffee is great and the fact that it lurks on a street corner in a neighbourhood as funky, eclectic and cool as Tai Hang will give you instant street cred when you bring your friends there.
Cafe Corridor – Causeway Bay
We made our first random friend in Hong Kong here and it was also the first cafe we managed to find a flat white! The coffee is generally great though inconsistencies do occur in milk temperature as well as service temperature. However, when on form, this place is a winner. You can get cool points for guiding people here too though it’s often packed so maybe not as well hidden as once upon a time.Espresso Alchemy – Quarry Bay
When presented with a flat white at this great little Quarry Bay gem, Dan’s eyes welled up. It was THAT perfect. Probably our most frequented spot, we’ve laughed here, fought here, celebrated here, obviously cried here, but mostly just drunk Exceptional Coffee. It’s owned by a Hong Kong/Melburnian which explains why the coffee is so darn good and makes us feel like we’re back where the water drains clockwise.
Barista Jam – Sheung Wan
We had to include one Sheung Wan regular here and Barista Jam has been looking after us since early on in our time here in HK. Consistently poured espresso based drinks, a selection of beans for purchase (though why, WHY do you guys always run out of Yirgacheffe?!!? Order more!) and lots of retail bits and pieces make this a worthwhile stop. It is, however, the only place on our list not open on Sundays…
Silly Boo – Tin Hau
Owned by the same folk as Cafe Corridor, but with slightly different offerings in both coffee and food, Silly Boo is a great stop for coffee and another very regular haunt of ours. Perched on a great little corner in bustling, foodie Tin Hau, it’s a great location to sip flat whites and watch the world go by.
Kubrick – Yau Ma Tei
Kubrick is home to not only a superb flat white but is located in a lush bookshop, attached to an art house cinema. We warn you – it is difficult to leave this place only having spent coffee money but it is a heavy contender for both coffee and atmosphere.
*Xen Coffee* – Quarry Bay
This hidden cafe gets the ‘R’ for Random coffee spot award due to its incredibly weird (and we’re guessing incredibly cheap rental) spot in a poky little underground mall in QB. Take said mall (full of dodgy looking nail shops, crusty gift shops and a bunch of sad looking untenanted cubbyholes) and throw a glossy, professional siphon coffee bar in the mix. Their world geography is shady but their slow dripped siphon coffee rocks and their cold press will put hairs on your chest. Awesome.
*Knockbox Coffee Company* – Mong Kok
The heavyweight of caffeine experiences in Hong Kong, we wish it was just an eensy bit closer to our house…though if it was we’d be bankrupted within a week. These guys know their coffee possibly more than any other baristas we’ve ever come across. If you’re into coffee geekery or ever just want to experience something novel try Knockbox. For $150 they offer a coffee tasting where you can sample either three different types of coffees or 3 different preparations. Very cool, very educational, very dangerous 🙂
*Brew Note* – North Point
The newest kid on the block – literally, OUR block! Yes, the unthinkably dangerous has happened and a cafe has opened on our street. In our opinion, this is the first viable option for proper coffee in North Point. Flanked by a plethora of options in neighbouring Tin Hau, Tai Hang and Quarry Bay, poor wee North Point has been unfairly neglected in the coffee stakes until now. Thankfully Brew Note has changed this. They roast onsite, have 14 different single origin beans (for drinking and for sale), and not only a range of different drinking styles but also differing tastes of washed/unwashed beans. Our only complaint is the complete barstardisation of serving flat whites in glasses. Urgh. Other than that, it’s an awesome place with great style, service and, most importantly, coffee. It’s our new home/office away from home.
*Our house* – North Point
We didn’t bring our espresso machine in our backpacks but we did bring out stainless steel french press on our travels. Actually this is replacement model with the first wearing out from overuse! We can also offer you Swiss Gold filtered or hand-dripped, depending on your choice of blend/bean. Beans are ground fresh to order and on any given day you may be lucky enough to sample Havana 5 Star (Wellington, New Zealand), beautifully roasted Yirgacheffe from H-J’s favourite roastery, Mazagran (Dunedin, New Zealand), beans fresh from the coffee plantations of Central America (thanks Brylee!) or from the reaches of South India depending on which of our friends or family have most recently sent us a package.
Oh, and we can assure you the service is amazing. As is our geographically sound map of the aforementioned cafes. Order yours today!