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.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Barista Jam has a fairly central location on the north shore of Hong Kong Island, tucked away off the main drag on Jervois Street in Sheung Wan. It’s in good company, with a cluster of coffee shops nearby, including the Sheung Wan branches of both the Cupping Room and 18 grams, as well as independents such as Brew Bros. It occupies two levels of a simple, rectangular building, which, from the outside, looks a bit like a concrete bunker. On the other hand, it has a 20-storey skyscraper sitting on top of it, so it has to be pretty strong!
Inside, there are bare plaster walls, concrete floors and exposed air-conditioning vents. The entrance is on the right, the recessed glass door providing far more natural light than the adjacent window, which is both small and lined with shelves full of coffee equipment. The counter is on the left, while the right-hand wall is lined with shelves holding Barista Jam’s retail offering. This consists of pre-packed bags of beans, with clear, plastic columns filled with beans mounted above them.
There are four seats at the counter, with the remainder of the downstairs seating at the back. There’s a six-person communal table, a two-person round table to the left of that and, at the bottom of the stairs, a two-person bar. There’s precious little natural light back here, and, while no-one would describe the light-fittings as “fancy”, they certainly do the job well enough, which is the important thing.
The stairs run up behind the counter on the left-hand side, the bottom of the stairs starting at the back. The space under the stairs has been cleverly utilised to provide kitchen-space, giving Barista Jam perhaps the biggest of the tucked-behind-the-counters I’ve seen in Hong Kong (although it’s still tiny). There’s more seating upstairs, which also doubles as a showroom for Barista Jam’s impressive range of coffee equipment. This is stacked up in display cabinets on three of the walls (the stairs occupy the fourth), surrounding a central, long, narrow 12-seat table.
Returning downstairs to the counter, I had a lengthy debate with the barista, which led to the suggestion of a pour-over (I never did discover the method Barista Jam was using!) with a Honey-processed West Java Aromanis from Indonesia. Since it’s what I would have chosen anyway, I was doubly pleased with this recommendation.
My coffee arrived in very narrow flask, with a small glass at the side: like most speciality places in Hong Kong, Barista Jam definitely puts quality over quantity when it comes to pour-over, as well as charging a decent premium, reflecting the time/effort that goes into making it.
Having started my day with a subtle Ethiopian, this Indonesian was an excellent choice. There was nothing subtle about it: a bold coffee, full of big flavours, but still well-rounded and balanced. I now think I understand what people mean when they describe a coffee as “boozy”.
I also had brunch. The speciality coffee scene in Hong Kong almost exclusively offers western-style food, including all-day breakfast options, and Barista Jam is no exception. I went for scrambled eggs with toast, which arrived extremely promptly. The eggs were very well done, moist, but not too wet, while the toast was also done to perfection. Simple, but extremely tasty.
|SHOP D, G/F • 126-128 JERVOIS STREET • SHEUNG WAN • HONG KONG|
|Monday||10:00 – 18:00||Roaster||Barista Jam (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Counter, Bar, Tables (upstairs)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 18:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||10:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||11:00 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||24th September 2016|
For a different, more local, take on Barista Jam, see this article by Yaw of eita.
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