The Coffee Academics, Wan Chai

One of the many interesting statements on the seats of the stools at the communal tables at the Wan Chai branch of The Coffee Academics in Hong Kong.The Coffee Academics is a roaster with a chain of coffee shops which, starting in Hong Kong, where there are multiple branches, has now spread to Shanghai and Singapore. It places itself firmly at the top end in terms of quality, with marketing to match. For example, I’ve never seen a coffee shop with such a fancy menu. Fortunately, the coffee (and the coffee shop) more than live up to the hype.

There’s a house-blend on espresso, with a range of standard drinks, most of which can also be had over ice. The real treat is the filter section where there’s a house-blend and four single-origins, all matched to a pair of preparation methods (Chemex and ice-drip for pour-over, Aeropress and Clever Dripper for immersion).

There’s an equally impressive range of food, which occupies most of the 16 page menu. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus various dessert options. In keeping with most of Hong Kong’s speciality coffee culture, the food is very western, with staples such as Eggs Benedict on offer. Consistent with the high-end setting, The Coffee Academics is table service only, so find a seat, peruse the menu and wait for someone to take your order.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On Johnstone Road, in the heart of Wan Chai, on Hong Kong Island, stands...
  • ... the Coffee Academics, with the door offset to the right, large windows to the left...
  • ... and outside seating on the windowsill to the right.
  • One thing I will say about The Coffee Academics is that it's not shy about telling you...
  • ... how wonderful it is, as you can see from this plaque outside.
  • Stepping inside, the bulk of the coffee shop is away to your left...
  • ... where you can sit at various tables in the middle of the room...
  • ... or you can sit at the counter itself, where these chairs line its length.
  • Alternatively, there's always the window-bar at the front...
  • ... which has some comfortable-looking chairs and a view of the busy street.
  • In constrast, there's a choice of chairs or square stiools at the tables in the middle.
  • A view from the far end of the main space, looking back towards the door...
  • ... where you'll find this long, communal table off to the right.
  • Failing that, how about this little room at the back on the right, next to the kitchen?
  • There are tables against a bench to the left...
  • ... and round tables with square stools off to the right.
  • The Coffee Academics is blessed with some fantastic lighting such as these beauties.
  • Meanwhile, these hang over the counter.
  • Obligatory close-up shot.
  • These look like vertical versions of the lights above the counter.
  • They're worth a second look.
  • More lights, this time of a more conventional design.
  • And in close up.
  • Finally, these unusual lights can be found in the little room at the back.
  • More neat touches, in the form of these inspirational quotes on the seats of the stools...
  • ... which line the communal table on the right.
  • The Coffee Academics menu. I don't think I've ever seen a cafe with succh a fancy menu.
  • The frontpiece of the menu is worth a read.
  • Inside, there's a list of all the Coffee Academics branches...
  • ... and a detailed, double page spread about the coffee options.
  • There are also pages and pages on the food.
  • Talking of which, the food's all cooked in the kitchen behind the counter.
  • There is also a large selectioon of cakes on the counter.
  • However, the main draw for me was the coffee.
  • The Coffee Academics makes a big thing about its Slayer Espresso machine.
  • Once again, it's worth a read.
  • The Slayer in action, as seen from the far end of the counter...
  • ... although this, the behind-the-scenes view, is even better.
  • You do have to pretty much stand in the way to get this view though!
  • On my first viist, late one evening, I had a surprisingly large decaf flat white.
  • I was impressed with the milk, which held the latte art all the way to the bottom of the cup.
  • I paired this with a late-night snack: cinnamon churros.
  • Down the far end of the counter, past the Slayer, is the pour-over area.
  • The various choices of beans are on display here in little glass jars.
  • On my return the following morning, I had a filter coffee, an Ethiopian Kochere...
  • ... served in a small beaker with a glass on the side.
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The Wan Chai branch of The Coffee Academics is on the busy Johnstone Road, one of Wan Chai’s main thoroughfares. Occupying a wide street front, the door is offset to the right, with large windows on either side. The smaller window on the right has a deep windowsill which doubles as outside seating, although the humidity and traffic didn’t really appeal to me.

The Coffee Academics has a rectangular-shaped space, with the enclosed kitchen in the back left-hand corner, a long counter in front of it. This leaves an L-shaped seating area, with the long stroke of the L to your left, and the short stroke ahead of you, against the right-hand wall of the kitchen. In terms of look and feel, it was the most western of all the coffee shops I visited in Hong Kong, and wouldn’t look (or feel) out of place in Shoreditch or Brooklyn.

The bulk of the seating is in the front section, with a 12-person communal table, complete with wooden-topped stools, to the right of the door. Meanwhile off to the left, there’s more seating and the counter. The remaining seating is straight ahead in the small room by the kitchen. The only natural light here is borrowed from the main room, making it very subdued and cosy. Four two-person tables line a hard, wooden bench against the left-hand wall, while there are three two-person round tables on right, each with a backless padded cube as a stool.

Back in the main room, there’s a long window-bar on left, running from the door to the left-hand wall, while three square tables line the space between it and the counter, seating provided by a mix of chairs and square stools. Finally, there are chairs running the length of the counter.

I visited the Wan Chi branch twice, once late at night (did I mention that it stays open until ten o’clock in the evening?) and again the following morning. I started, for my late-night visit, with a surprisingly large decaf flat white in a pretty tulip cup. Overall it was smooth and very creamy, but the coffee was a little anonymous. However, the milk was beautifully steamed and held the latte art to the bottom of the cup.

I also treated myself to some excellent cinnamon churros. Four crisp, deep-fried churros, coated in cinnamon sugar, arrived in a glass with a scoop of ice cream and a disappointingly small amount of chocolate fudge sauce. However, the ice cream more than made up for the lack of sauce, providing an interesting contrast in both temperature and texture from the warm, crispy churros.

The following day, I ordered the Ethiopian Kochere, available through either Chemex or ice-drip. However, The Coffee Academics had run out of Chemex papers, so my waitress offered it through any method of my choosing. After some deliberation, I selected the Clever Dripper and was pleased when my coffee arrived in a beaker with a glass on the side. However, in contrast to the rather generously-sized flat white, there was just 150ml of coffee. That said, it was absolutely lovely, served at the perfect temperature, with beautifully balanced, with subtle, well-rounded flavours. When you can serve something like this, you don’t need to big yourself up: just let the coffee do the talking.

35-45 JOHNSTON ROAD • WAN CHAI • HONG KONG
http://the-coffeeacademics.com +852 2154 1180
Monday 08:00 – 22:00 Roaster The Coffee Academics (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 22:00 Seating Tables, Counter
Wednesday 08:00 – 22:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 22:00 Service Table
Friday 08:00 – 23:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 23:00 Wifi Free (with code & login)
Sunday 09:00 – 21:00 Power Limited
Chain Local/Regional Visits 23rd, 24th September 2016

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