Ask any Hong Kong dweller and they’ll tell you that tea – which was introduced by the British colonisers – reigns supreme: an estimated 2.5 million cups of tea are drunk by residents per year. The city is also well-known for its ubiquitous cha chaan tengs (casual restaurants offering Western-style food) that each serve their own version of Hong Kong-style nai cha (milk tea), whereby strongly brewed black tea is mixed with evaporated milk and poured through a strainer multiple times, resulting in a silky, frothy and fragrant blend.
That being said, the specialty coffee scene has picked up steam over the past decade. This has been in tandem with the growing global craze for single-origin beans; brews made with sleek and geeky gadgets such as siphons and AeroPress machines; and a respect for and interest in growing, harvesting and roasting methods. Out of the numerous coffee shops that have sunk their roots into Hong Kong, here are a few standout options to patronise on your next visit.
1. The Cupping Room
The Cupping Room was founded in 2011, when the city’s specialty coffee industry was still relatively in its infancy, and remains one of the scene’s key players today. They still maintain the same respect for and devotion to growing, harvesting and processing methods, with a bias for beans that offer a great aroma, sweetness and clean acidity upon roasting. Choose from one of their four outposts (Wan Chai, Central and a separate café and roastery in Sheung Wan) and go for a single-origin filter brew, which really showcases the quality of their beans. Their Sheung Wan café in particular also offers a full food menu with Aussie-style dishes such as avocado on toast with ricotta cheese and a poached egg; and crunchy granola with honeycomb and seasonal fresh fruits. Singapore residents can also check out their city-state outlet, located an Ngee Ann City.
2. The Coffee Academics
If there’s one Hong Kong-based coffee shop that’s made a name for itself beyond the Fragrant Harbour, it’s Jennifer Wai’s The Coffee Academics. Established in 2012, the brand now boasts numerous branches within Hong Kong, and has spread to Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and, imminently, Japan. Step into any one of their sleek, streamlined – yet welcoming – outlets and you can expect high-quality brews made with style and finesse. Be sure to sample the special Ice Drip coffee, whereby ice water is slowly dripped over a bed of coffee for a smooth and mellow brew with a rounded mouthfeel. Another standout is the Bulletproof drink: black coffee mixed with coconut oil and MCT oil for a morning boost.
3. Knockbox Coffee Company
Operating out of two locations (one in Central and another in Mong Kok), this humble company makes arguably some of the best coffee in the city. Owner Patrick Tam was one of Hong Kong’s first certified quality graders, and the drinks served here certainly reflect his pedigree and dedication to the field. Smooth and velvety shots of espresso are pulled using a top-quality La Marzocco Strada EP, and a bevy of different grinders and filter coffee-brewing contraptions are also employed to prepare the beverages. We recommend ordering a filter brew tailored to your bean and brewing preference, and picking up a few portable drip bags to stuff into your bag for later consumption.
4. Hazel & Hershey Coffee Roasters
This spot along the bustling Peel Street in Central bills itself as a community coffee shop, where nurturing a love for coffee among its customers is prioritised just as much as the drinks themselves – which is to say a lot. Besides importing their own green coffee, which is then roasted on the premises, the establishment also retails an extensive range of home-brewing contraptions and conducts workshops themed around roasting, brewing, barista skills and cultivating a general appreciation for coffee. Take a seat in the playfully designed seating area – which sports a chocolate brown and vivid teal colour palette – and sample a coffee of your choice. In the mood for a sweet treat? Pick the affogato, which comes with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream.
5. Artistry Brewing Company
Located in the North Point district, this calming café offers a gorgeous, light-filled space that’s ideal for a lazy afternoon of lounging while sipping on a quality cup of joe. The interior’s vintage-chic vibe comes courtesy of mismatched chairs and pillows; furniture made from recycled wood that sport raw and unfinished edges; shelves lined with various homewares and tchotchkes; plenty of lush plants strewn throughout the space; and an inviting outdoor terrace. We suggest pairing one of their espresso-based drinks – made using light-roasted beans – with a slice of cake. Non-coffee-drinkers can opt for the equally delicious matcha latte, which offers perfectly balanced earthy, smooth and bitter flavours.
6. 18 Grams Specialty Coffee
What began as a hole-in-the-wall espresso bar has now sprouted multiple locations throughout the city, all of which offer a range of top-notch espresso-based and filter beverages made using in-house roasted beans from the likes of Ethiopia, Brazil and Guatemala. The establishment was founded by John So, a former programmer and app developer who decided to turn his passion for coffee into a full-time job. Besides the standard options – think flat whites, macchiatos and pour-over varieties – you’ll also find some downright intriguing items on the menu, such as a Red Velvet Latte or Nutella Latte, which can be enjoyed with hearty dishes from their all-day breakfast offerings.
7. Manson’s Lot
For Aussie-style coffee and grub, you can’t go wrong with Manson’s Lot in Wan Chai. The bohemian-chic coffee shop shuns the ubiquitous whitewashed walls, industrial furnishings and minimalist décor in favour of a cosy and charming joint more reminiscent of a neighbourhood bistro. Select a single-origin brew, and your drink will be delivered with a small informational card with more details about the tasting notes and provenance of the beans. There’s also the refreshing option of a Tonic Espresso Bomb: a shot of espresso served with tonic water, an orange wedge and sugar. Pair your coffee with moreish food options such as smoked duck breast risotto or seared scallop pasta.
8. Sensory Zero
Bean geeks will have a field day at Sensory Zero, where, in addition to sampling glorious cups of coffee, you can up your knowledge with a host of near-weekly workshops. If you’re just here for the coffee, though, you’ll be well satisfied with the offerings across its five locations. While a classic latte, double espresso or filter coffee is a safe bet, you may also want to sample their specialty Ginger Sparkling Americano: espresso mixed with sparkling water and homemade caramelised ginger syrup. Food-wise, expect creative takes on brunch favourites, such as a flaky croissant topped with thick and succulent pieces of unagi or Wagyu beef and a jiggly onsen egg over rice.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
The information is accurate as of press time. For updated information, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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