Hong Kong coffee experts share their love of the brew

Hong Kong coffee experts share their love of the brew

Hong Kong's baristas describe their own coffee habits and why they're so crazy about the little brown bean
Thousands of words have been written and rewritten on Hong Kong's secret coffee spots, yet not many of them tell the stories of the people behind the scenes. This time CNNGo switches the spotlight to the baristas and invites them to talk less about the business, and more about the love.  

Kyoko Kitamura from Kitamura Coffee

From Monday to Sunday, Kyoko Kitamura always opens the door of her apartment in Happy Valley to coffee lovers. Living with about 120kg of green beans from various coffee-producing centers around the world, she runs a classic coffee roasting machine at home almost every other day. While specializing in selling freshly roasted beans, she also serves coffee on weekends and public holidays at her four-seat coffee space. "Come by to visit, like you're seeing a friend, and I will make coffee for you," she says. 

What is your coffee habit? I like Blue Mountain beans that I roast. People usually roast them lightly so that the unique and strong acidic taste remains. But I like roasting it a bit longer to make it mild. I love black coffee.  I drink two cups a day. One cup in the morning while having a toast in a hurry. And another cup around noon after I open the shop, usually sitting in front of the computer.

When and why did you start drinking coffee? Hmm ... I don't remember when I started drinking coffee. It became part of my life without my noticing. I guess having coffee is a very natural habit among Japanese.

What impression of coffee do you want to give to your customers? Perfect aroma and flavor. I sell my beans within a week after I roast it.
Any advice to coffee drinkers?
Roasting date matters more than expiry date. Those packed whole beans sold in supermarkets were usually roasted a long time ago. Try freshly roasted beans next time. You can tell the difference.

Kitamura Coffee, 2/F, 4 Shing Ping Street, Happy Valley, tel +852 82003480 

Xen Coffee

Dixon Ip from Xen Coffee

Dixon Ip makes coffee as seriously as a lab technician working on a magical science formula. Ip likes to play with siphon coffee. He uses a set of glass vessels, mini electric heaters, a wooden stirrer and a timer to turn single-origin beans into around 50 cups of refined siphon coffee. Including the time to wash the equipment after every experiment, Xen Coffee's slow brewing process is just too luxurious to be a profitable business -- it's more like a hobby, and he chose a quiet Quarry Bay basement to enjoy it.  

What's your coffee habit? Usually black coffee. Nicaragua beans by siphon is my favorite. It has a strong nutty taste but not too bitter or acidic. It also works well with cream. If I do not count the sipping I do for quality checking, I drink two cups of coffee a day, one in the morning and another during tea time. I just enjoy the taste and try to do nothing else while drinking.

How did you get started? I have been making coffee for my parents since I was a kid. I was exposed to the aroma every day but they didn't allowed me to drink coffee back then, until I entered high school around 20 years ago, when I bought my own siphon coffee maker.

Why siphon? The making process is cool, isn't it? A very practical reason is I can serve as many different single-origin coffees as I want with siphon, while espresso machines are limited by temperature and pressure settings. That's why espresso bars usually just serve the house blend, or at most a few single origins.

What impression do you want to give to customers when they drink your coffee? Freshness and happiness.

Any advice to coffee drinkers? Give black coffee a chance. You can add cream, sugar or whatever you want, but before that, please have at least a sip in black and taste the characters of different coffee beans.

Xen Coffee, Basement K-12, Manly Plaza, 995 & 997 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, tel +852 2960 1388 www.xencoffee.com



Coco Espresso

Johnson Ko from Coco Espresso

65 degree Celsius milk, 18kg of hand pressure on ground coffee, 1 inch thick foam -- this is a formula of Johnson Ko's Australian-style latte. Ko serves the espresso variant with splendid latte art on top, at his Coco Espresso. And it must be served in a glass, not a mug: "This is the Australian standard," says the Sydney-trained barista. 

What is your coffee habit? I drink around eight espresso shots a day, sometimes also a cup of latte in the morning if I feel hungry. Standing in front of the espresso machine, I sneak my customers' espresso if they are not in a hurry -- and then secretly make another one for them. 

What is your coffee drinking history? I started drinking coffee in Hong Kong tea restaurants. Later I moved to Starbucks, I thought it was a symbol of "good taste". But four years ago my uncle served me a cup of Australian-Italian coffee, I was shocked because I never had such nice coffee before. That's why I went to Sydney for training. 

What is your ideal coffee shop like? I want to be a friend with my customers. That's why I like small shops so that I can chat with them.
What impression do you want to give to customers when they drink your coffee? Consistent quality. They come, pay HK$24, and can always get the same latte that they expect.

Any advice to coffee drinkers? People love to read books or chat with friends when having coffee. It is perfectly fine. But please please drink it within 10 minutes before it gets cold.

Coco Espresso, 197 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, tel +852 2542 2228

Cafe Corridor

Felix Wong from Café Corridor 

He imports, roasts, grinds and teaches the art of the perfect cup. Felix Wong indulges in almost every possible stage in the coffee-making process. Besides his flagship Cafe Corridor in Causeway Bay and Coffee Assembly in SoHo, Felix also opened his roastery in Kwun Tong in 2006, supplying freshly roasted beans to his shops and other coffee boutiques including People’s Recreation Community and Soulmate Coffee. Felix says he wants to “conquer the whole coffee production line" and the next step is to plant his own coffee trees, “if I have more money."

What is your coffee habit? Six to seven cups a day, mostly espresso or latte. I drink a lot while doing quality checking. I visit my shops and taste the coffee made by my baristas. Coffee drinking is more like a part of my life and work.

When and why did you start drinking coffee? I started drinking coffee around 10 years ago because I foresaw a potential business in the coffee industry. At that time, it was so hard to find a cup of espresso. 
What is your favorite coffee bean?
Recently I am in love with Kenyan. It tastes good no matter what brewing method you use.
What is your ideal coffee shop like?
Something like Stumptown in New York -- very fine coffee with stylish furniture and environment. That’s what a "coffee experience" really means.  

Any advice to coffee drinkers? Don’t trust anyone else. Keep trying and find your own cup of coffee.

Cafe Corridor, G/F, 26A Russell Street, Causeway Bay, tel 2892 2927 www.cafecorridor.com