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.
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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