As a buzzing international cities, Hong Kong and Shanghai are ever changing. This visit, I learned that both cities had developed a pallet for fine coffee. Everywhere now, you can find all sorts of café's that offer siphons, ice drips, nitrogen coffees, exotic blends, and as always a traditional cup o' jo. Serendipitously, my brother and my father have both become very interested in coffee recently. This being said, every day included a visit to a different coffee shop. I loved experiencing each café's unique style, from their architecture, interiors, and baristas, to their offerings. My absolute favorites of the trip were Coffee Lab (HK), Arabica (Discovery Bay, HK), and Coffee Academics (HK).
Coffee Lab is a double story shop with a narrow interior. The color palette centers around cool greys and blue accents with concrete, metal, and wood elements. This is where you can find an exceptional nitrogen coffee, and if you're up for something new, a lemonade coffee (you'll have to tell me how that one turns out for you, I was not quite brave enough this time around). Their iced espresso's are gorgeous, arriving in a gold rimmed glass atop a matching china plate. The coffee is roasted in house on the upper level, which gives the café a lovely caffeinated aroma.
Arabica has a similar feel, however it is probably best described as having an industrial, minimalistic sort of style. Any industrial designer would step inside and feel right at home - (the design geek inside of me was squealing with delight). Chemex's housing Edison bulbs were hanging from a wooden plank suspended from the ceiling, creating an ingenious coffee-themed light fixture (ahhhhhh I love it so much), and I cannot even begin to describe the wonderfully clean, modern-with-a-vintage-twist audio system…(drooling)… The fresh, yet-to-be-roasted coffee beans are displayed on the wall in glass and silver dispensers. The main counter integrates a display and description of each type of bean the café features. Walk around the counter and you're in the coffee kitchen, where bins of beans line the back wall, a large wooden table with industrial fittings welcome guests who wish to sit and enjoy watching the beautiful, artfully, precise way in which their coffee is created by the owner of the shop and his spunky protégé.
Coffee Academics is a chain café - there are two in Causeway Bay - that stole my design heart as well as my taste buds. Though industrial in its style, it maintains a cozy feel with its warm wood tones and greenery. Their light fixtures are fantastic, and their ice coffee (served in a wine glass) is delicious. However, I have to say, the crème de la crème of the menu is absolutely, hands down, the churros with ice cream. Warm, and fried to crispy perfection, these churros make you think twice that you're in Hong Kong…Pair it with an espresso and you're in heaven. The cool thing about Coffee Academics is that its also an education hub for coffee lovers. Much like wine tasting classes, it is my understanding that they teach you how to develop your taste for coffee.
Though we consumed a ridiculous amount of caffeine on this trip, I'm sure we had only experienced the tip of the coffee culture iceberg in Asia. To all of you coffee nuts out there who want to broaden their horizons, I would highly recommend a venture to the East.
May your imagination never cease to flow.