18 Grams, Times Square

The words "18 GRAMS" in white in a black circle. Some stylised coffee beans are drawn above the 18.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.

Continue reading

Café Corridor

A single-origin Colombian espresso in a branded cup from Cafe Corridor in Hong Kong with 'A passage to the coffee world since 2001' written on the inside rim.That I found the Café Corridor was down to a tip-off from Andrea Burton. Even then, I walked along the street four times before I found it! In Causeway Bay, in the heart of Hong Kong, it’s opposite the gleaming towers and soaring halls of Times Square, hidden in plain sight in the manner of Newcastle’s much-missed Flat Caps Coffee on Ridley Place. The only indication that it’s there is the sign above the entrance, which, fittingly, is a long corridor leading you to the café in a basement-like structure at the rear of the building, complete with outdoor seating in an enclosed courtyard at the back.

Café Corridor has been going since 2001, a forerunner of Hong Kong’s growing speciality coffee scene and, like many such coffee shops, it has a western-inspired menu/coffee. It’s part of small chain of five co-owned independent coffee shops, which includes N1 Coffee & Co. Roasting is provided by its parent (which I’ll call Barista Academy), although each coffee shop has its own beans. In the case of Café Corridor, this includes a house-blend and five seasonal single-origins which can be had as an espresso or filter through V60/Syphon/Aeropress. Iced versions are also available.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Barista Jam

My Indonesian West Java Arananis Honey Process pour-over, served in a carafe with a glass on the side at Barista Jam.In Hong Kong’s relatively new speciality coffee scene, Barista Jam is one of its longer-standing members. It’s also, in a market dominated by small, independent chains, something of an oddity in that it’s a one-off. In a market that also spreads from the fairly basic (18 grams’ Causeway Bay branch, for example) to the fairly sumptuous (The Cupping Room and Coffee Academics chains), it’s definitely down at the basic end of the market.

It’s a bit ramshackle in both layout and approach, but it works, with a no-nonsense approach where the coffee speaks for itself. A combination of retail (downstairs), equipment sales room (upstairs), café (both levels) and roastery (off-site), it feels as if it’s just been thrown together, although I suspect that a lot more thought than that has gone into it.

Talking of coffee, there’s a house-blend on espresso, three different single-origins on ice-drip and no fewer than 10 single-origins available as filter (most of which are available to purchase). Although it’s a small space, there’s a fully-equipped kitchen tucked away under the stairs behind the counter. This produces an impressive array of western-style food, including all-day breakfast options, various pasta dishes, sandwiches and salads.

Continue reading

Brian’s Travel Spot: Shanghai

The futurist Oriental Pearl TV tower on the Pudong side of Huangpu River, as seen from the Bund at night.Welcome to third instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot series, which started with my flight out to Hong Kong and continued with my adventures in Hong Kong itself. This post covers my time in Shanghai, which is the second leg of my trip. I’d never been to China before, so when I got an opportunity to go there on business, I took it with both hands.

I’ve been in Shanghai all week, but that’s mostly been spent in a meeting room on the first floor of the Hyatt, an interesting mix of modern western hotel, with Chinese architectural influences. So far I’ve not seen much of the city, although from just my limited exposure, I can say that it’s very different to Hong Kong.

I’ve now got the weekend to explore before I fly off on the third leg of my trip. Even though I’m still posting updates about my Hong Kong adventures, I wanted to get this post out while I was still in Shanghai, starting with my flight over. As with all the Travel Spots, this post is split into a number of sections which I’ll add to on a regular basis, so don’t forget to check back regularly for updates.

Continue reading

The Cupping Room Central

The square facade of The Cupping Room in Central, facing onto the steeply-sloping Cochrane Street.I began my exploration of the Hong Kong coffee scene with Thursday’s Coffee Spot, 18 Grams, which was the first place that I visited. I thought it would be fitting, now that I’ve left Hong Kong, to follow that up with the final place I visiting during my short stay, The Cupping Room in Central. I’d previously visited the Wan Chai branch, also on my first day in Hong Kong, coming away suitably impressed.

I was therefore keen to try the Central branch before I left. On my way to the airport, bags safely checked-in, I made the short detour from the airport train station to The Cupping Room Central for my Sunday morning breakfast and for what turned out to be my two final coffees before leaving Hong Kong.

Spread over two compact floors, The Cupping Room serves a house-blend and seasonal single-origin on espresso, plus five more single-origins on pour-over, with bulk-brew and iced-filter if you’re in a hurry. All the coffee is roasted for The Cupping Room by Sweet Bloom in America, before being flown over to Hong Kong. If you’re hungry, there’s an impressive range of (mostly Western) food served all day, plus some delicious-looking cakes.

Continue reading

Brian’s Travel Spot: Hong Kong

The famous Star Ferry, seen here in 2008, crossing Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong island and Kowloon.Welcome to second instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot series, which started with my flight out to Hong Kong via Dubai. This post covers my time in Hong Kong, an amazing city which I first visited in 2008. That was primarily a business trip, but I tacked on some sight-seeing time at the end. Hong Kong had never been on my destination list, but I fell in love with it and have been wanting to return ever since.

Trying to sum up Hong Kong in a single post, let alone a 200 word introduction is futile: much like any big city, Hong Kong is an amalgam of different areas. This is particularly true when you throw in Kowloon, the New Territories and the outer islands. In nutshell, though, Hong Kong (the island) is a mountain in the sea, densely forested, both by trees and the skyscrapers which sprout up with amazing frequency. Think midtown or downtown New York, but done as the British would do it, in a “let’s muddle through” sort of way. Hot, humid, loud and busy, it exhilarates and exhausts me in equal measure.

This post is covers my four days in Hong Kong and, as with all the others, is split into a number of sections, so don’t forget to check back during the week for regular updates. For now you can read about:

Continue reading

18 Grams, Causeway Bay

The words "18 GRAMS" in white in a black circle. Some stylised coffee beans are drawn above the 18.18 grams is a local café/roastery chain based in Hong Kong, with eight branches spread out over Hong Kong Island and on the mainland in Kowloon. Founded in 2010, the Causeway Bay branch, just west of Victoria Park, is one of the first branches to open back in 2011. It’s a tiny spot, with just enough room for a handful of tables inside and a couple more outside down a side alley. However, what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in character. And excellent coffee, of course.

18 grams has a standard espresso-based menu, serving the Black Sheep house-blend. This is supported by interesting options, such as a Shakerato, and a range of single-origin filter coffees. 18 grams is currently roasting eight different single-origins, two of which are available as pour-overs through the V60, either straight up or over ice. There’s also bulk-brew or cold brew if you don’t want to wait.

You’d think that would be enough for such a small place, but no. 18 grams has an impressive range of food as well, all cooked on-site in the tiny kitchen space which is nestled behind the counter along with the espresso machine and grinders.

Continue reading