My first experience of speciality coffee in Hong Kong was at the Causeway Bay branch of roaster/coffee shop chain, 18 Grams. Two days later, I found myself in Times Square (opposite Café Corridor) and decided to pop into the 18 Grams there. Although “pop in” might be over-stating things since it took me almost an hour to find it!
18 Grams’ Times Square branch is inside the City Super super market, which itself is in the basement of Times Square. Occupying a simple, triangular stand, with seating along two sides of the counter, 18 Grams only serves coffee, plus the usual retail selection of beans and coffee-related kit. There’s a more limited offering than at Causeway Bay, but that’s to be expected, with just espresso (a house-blend), several single-origins on V60 and cold-brew. What surprised me was the relaxed atmosphere, making it the ideal place to linger over your coffee.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
If you don’t know where it is, the Times Square branch of 18 Grams, which opened in 2013, is not easy to find. The trick is to ignore the soaring atrium at the centre of Times Square (although that’s worth more than a second look; indeed I have spent half an hour wandering around there in the past) and instead head towards the back. Here you’ll find double doors leading to a sweeping staircase that descends to the basement. You’ll know you’ve reached the right spot when, looking up, you see the glorious Tiffany Dome above you.
Once you reach the basement, head into City Super, making your way towards the back, where you’ll find 18 Grams in the general coffee section. Right across from 18 Grams is a line of shelves with coffee from local roasters such as The Coffee Academics, along with international brands, including Illy and Peets from the USA, plus, most surprising of all, Devon’s Roastworks. It’s a small world!
18 Grams occupies a triangular stand, the back wall given over to retail shelves, with the remaining two sides providing counter-seating on tall, transparent plastic stools. The left-hand side has the espresso machine and grinders, while the till’s on the right. If you like watching your coffee being made, it also has a much better view.
What surprised me was just how peaceful and relaxing it was, particularly compared to the bustling Causeway Bay branch. Like the Kin-Kin Coffee Stand at Festival Foods, while surrounded by the store, it’s a quiet spot, leaving you free to chat with the barista. You can also use City Super’s Wifi for 30 minutes if you need to check up on social media or surf the web, plus, this being Hong Kong, the air-conditioning was a welcome relief.
I’d hoped to try the Black Sheep blend I’d had at Causeway Bay, but I discovered that 18 Grams roasts several blends, with the different branches using different blends, depending on the customer base. The 18 Grams at Times Square serves Big Bad Wolf, a blend of beans from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Colombia and Brazil. It had a bold, front of the mouth taste and was surprisingly bright, but not too bright.
Originally, I’d only intended to stay for a quick espresso, but in the way that these things go, I got talking to the barista, Iris, who had also served me at Causeway Bay. She persuaded me to stay for a V60 of the Ecuador Finca San Alego single-origin (the other choices that day were a Jamaica Blue Mountain and an Indonesian Sulawesi). This proved to be an inspired choice, a lovely, mellow coffee which really improved and evolved as it cooled while I was chatting with Iris. By the time I got to the bottom of the cup, it was very fine indeed!
|TIMES SQUARE • 1 MATHESON STREET • CAUSEWAY BAY • HONG KONG|
|www.18grams.com||+852 5641 8398|
|Monday||10:00 – 22:00||Roaster||18 Grams (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||10:00 – 22:00||Seating||Counter|
|Wednesday||10:00 – 22:00||Food||N/A|
|Thursday||10:00 – 22:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||10:00 – 23:00||Payment||Cash + Octopus|
|Saturday||10:00 – 23:00||Wifi||Free (30 minutes)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 22:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||23rd September 2016|
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