Jun 21, 2012|
First, there was Nespresso. This sleek, stylish brand of instant-coffee machines is not only the most popular of its kind, but we suspect it’s done its part in rousing Hongkongers’ interest anew in an otherwise pretty staple drink. Nespresso immediately set itself apart from the fray by offering exotic coffee capsules that were procured from all corners of the earth. And the funny thing was, customers were actually able to tell—and appreciate—the difference in flavors and strength.
While whispers of a “third wave” coffee culture finally started making the rounds in Hong Kong (about 10 years after the Americans coined the term), new cafes promoting this serious coffee study started popping up all around us. At the beginning there was Knockbox Coffee Company (14B Tai Ping Shan St., Sheung Wan) in Sheung Wan, serving zingy Ethiopian-origin ristrettos from siphons and hand-drips. The coffee servers there know their stuff—and the prices of the coffees reflect their expertise. It’s not uncommon to come back $60 short after a cup of their meticulously made brews. (And we thought Starbucks was expensive!)
Café Loisl (G/F, 8 Tai On Terrace, Sheung Wan, 9179-0209) entered the scene at around the same time, with their authentic Viennese coffees that come with equally authentic-sounding names (try pronouncing “einspanner”). Then came RabbitHole Coffee & Roaster (2/F, 26 Cochrane St., Central, 2581-0861), providing not only a cool hangout but a very hands-on and educational coffee experience for enthusiastic drinkers (see our interview with owner Mike Fung, below). Recently, we’ve seen the opening of Il Caffe (Room 103, Cheung’s Building, 1-3 Wing Lok St., Sheung Wan, 2545-6663) and Fiat Caffe (Shop G5-G6, Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Rd., Causeway Bay, 2960-9222), both serving top-notch Italian brews.
It all means that for many of us, coffee is becoming as interesting and complex as wine—where origins and production mechanisms actually matter. Knowing how to say “macchiato” is no longer sufficient—serious drinkers also care about the roasting levels, the storage of the beans and the filter process. Not that we all don’t love Starbucks... but it’s nice to see some competition.
Related article: "Coffee Philosophy"