The secret to making that perfect cup of coffee
Shek Kip Mei is kind of an odd place for an Italian-style café that roasts its own coffee and spends up to three months training its baristas. Then again, Café Golden is an odd kind of café.
For starters, it was originally meant to be a showroom for Golden Moon, a Taiwanese company that makes expensive glass art objects. But Raymond Tong, a coffee fanatic who worked in Golden Moon's marketing department, convinced the company to open a serious espresso bar instead.
"I wanted to give people a chance to really improve their relationship with coffee," says Tong, a former aviation engineer who fell in love with coffee when he worked as a barista while studying in London. "We always have a café next to our showroom, so I suggested to our headquarters in Taipei that we should have a serious Italian café here, to set us apart. Hong Kong is a special case because there aren't many serious cafés here. This gives us a chance to make a difference."
It took just two months for the café to break even after it opened in June. Its bright first-floor location in the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, which includes a covered outdoor terrace and an exhibition space and meeting room for JCCAC artists, plays a part in its success. But it mostly has to do with the café's straightforward, no-cut-corners approach to making good coffee.
Tong uses a manual Rancilio espresso machine and he hired three university graduates to work for him full-time, training them for six hours a day over the course of the summer.
"It was all worth it," says Tong. "[The baristas] were white sheets of paper with no knowledge of coffee when they started. Now they're very well-trained. Three or four out of every ten customers order a straight espresso. We're quite pleased and surprised by that. It means we've attracted some serious coffee lovers."
Cafe Golden customers are so serious about coffee, in fact, that 13 of them signed up for a new coffee-making workshop that Tong began offering last month. For $2,800, you can subject yourself to eight intensive five-hour lessons: three on coffee theory ("the physics, chemistry and biology of coffee," says Tong) and five on practical things like how to roast and grind beans and how to properly extract from them that delicious black gold.
All of the effort seems to have paid off. Café Golden's caffè latte ($24) is one of the best in the city, topped with thick microfoam and properly-steamed milk that brings out the flavour of the coffee. A double shot of espresso ($20) was smooth, slightly bitter and topped by a thick layer of crema. The coffee milkshake ($24), made with vanilla ice cream and a shot of espresso, is a good antidote to the sugary frappa-whatevers made from powdered mix by the big coffee chains.
1/F, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon
+852 2408 8255