#culture /dining


The baristas you need to know in Hong Kong

Nov 22, 2017


Meet the people behind your favourite cups of coffee

The perfect cup of coffee is not an accident. Long before it hits your eco-cup, the beans are grown, harvested and roasted. Each stage in the process from beans to brew requires tireless dedication and years of experience to master, and that holds true for the last stage: brewing. True baristas know that making a good cup of coffee requires a lot more than just some ground beans and hot water. It requires patience, perseverance and passion - plus people skills don't hurt. If you want to taste what a really good cup of coffee is, whether you go for a long black or a cappuccino, these are the baristas to find. They're some of the best and coolest in the city, and they're guaranteed to give you an exceptional cup of coffee, and probably a few good stories on the side.

Kwok Ying ‘Ivy’ Lai

One of Hong Kong's best and coolest baristas, Kwok Ying 'Ivy' Lai

At only 26-years-old, Ivy is the youngest barista on our list – but don’t let that fool you. She’s been brewing up award-winning coffees for over 10 years, and has won latte art championships around the world. She even appears as a judge at different competitions throughout Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, when she’s not travelling or creating coffee-related paraphernalia.


How did you become a barista?

Before becoming a professional barista, I worked part-time while I studied ‘Fashion and Image Design’ at Hong Kong School of Design. Applying for my first job in coffee was terrifying. Everyone looked indescribably cool and extremely knowledgeable about coffee.

What do you love most about your work? 


Coffee is a perfect bridge to connect people and bring everyone together. I love to learn from other people and hear their unique stories.

What’s your signature coffee?


It would be caffè latte. It is because as a latte artist and a barista at the same time, it is paramount to produce a cup of coffee that is perfect in both taste and visuals. A caffè latte allows me to create different latte art patterns while delivering lovely taste and quality. 



What do you like to do, outside of work?

I design and create coffee-related peripheral products and collect coffee-related tools. Above all, my biggest hobby is traveling because it enables me to explore new horizons and learn different cultures, and of course, to try coffee in different places around the world.


Where can we find you?

At different shops around the city, where I do coffee consultations and provide latte art training

Yoshikazu Hosokawa

Yoshikazu Hosokawa became a barista to help his coffee roasting business grow

Originally from Japan, Yoshikazu moved to Hong Kong in 2010. Since then, he’s opened up his own business, the little known (not for long!) Porch Coffee Bar and has been serving up some of the city’s best brews ever since.

How did you become a barista?

My love and passion for coffee. With our brand, Porch - The Coffee Merchants, we were originally planning to be just a coffee roaster. But when we were blessed with the opportunity to partner up with Harley-Davidson Hong Kong to open a coffee bar, I volunteered to become a barista as I thought that I would be able to meet more people, to explain about our coffee, and to get direct feedback on our products which, I believe, would help us grow.   

What do you love most about your work?

Coffee is something that I love and I am passionate about. I think that being able to do what you love for a living is a luxury and I am very fortunate to have my job. Of course, that does not mean it is easy to succeed or even survive! But even more so, I love that through this job I get to be a tiny part of someone’s life and provide a breath of fresh air.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I love to read, travel, and listen to music, but nowadays my biggest hobby is doing anything with my one-year-old son.

What’s your signature coffee?

Filter coffee, but our lattes are pretty popular as well.

Where can we find you?

Porch Coffee Bar, inside the Harley-Davidson Hong Kong showroom.

Porch Coffee Bar, Eltee Building, 1/F, 3 Ning Foo Street, Chai Wan

www.porchcoffees.com

Wah Kay “Paul” Chan

Paul Chan can explain game theory to you over a coffee or two

Paul is a dream barista, with a deep understanding of the complex flavour profiles, and a pretty interesting backstory. In the past seven years, he’s gone from burgeoning biochemist to bona fide coffee master. Born and raised in England, he’s spent the last seven years honing his craft in Hong Kong.

How did you become a barista?

I came the long way! I studied Biochemistry at Manchester U.M.I.S.T. University, but in the back of mind there was always an interest in flavour. My dad was a chef so I also love to cook.  Generally, I’ll try to learn how something is made, especially if tastes amazing. You should see my spice and condiment cupboard! This love of flavour was a catalyst to tasting more coffee. I’m particularly interested in exploring single origins all around the world and how they differ. This is something we are about to really focus on at Fuel and it’s incredibly exciting.

What do you love most about your work?

Working with my team to consistently make great espresso, while sharing good vibes and knowledge with guests to make a memorable experience. You never stop learning about coffee. I also love the locations of our cafés. There is never a dull moment and we get to meet some extremely successful and interesting people.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I love music and have an eclectic collection which totally fits with the fantastic music we play in our cafés. My other major hobby is Game Theory. This all stems from an interest in numbers developed at university. To pay for my studies I played online games with some success. We used to hold regular Friday night tournaments and the competition was fierce. This proved to be a great training ground for the future though. After studying, the poker boom was coming to its peak (2008) and I was able to make the transition from amateur to pro for three years. But that’s a whole other story over a couple or three coffees!

What’s your signature coffee?

Classic espresso. It’s our signature blend. As it's so lightly roasted - which is actually a very complex skill - it's very difficult to make. There is no margin for error and nowhere to hide.

Where can we find you?

Fuel Espressos

Fuel Espressos, various locations across Hong Kong
www.fuelespresso.com


Chan “Dawn” Kwun Ho

Dawn- a two-time Hong Kong barista champion- has been a coffee-guru for the past eight years, travelling all around the world for competitions. He spent a few years at the beloved Cupping Room before moving on to his new haunt, Amber Coffee Brewery - a minimalist haven for coffee fanatics.

Why did you become a barista?

I just wanted to find a part time job when i was young, and baristas have very good working hours. But now, I know i can make a lot of new friends all around the world.


What do you love most about your work?

I get to meet a lot of new people every single day and drink coffee anytime!


Do you have any other hobbies?

I like to find new places for food and drinks without using my phone. Trust me, it makes everything taste better.


What’s your signature coffee?

It’s called ‘Amber’ and it’s my winning coffee in the competitions


Where can we find you?

Amber Coffee Brewery

Amber Coffee Brewery, Full View Building, G/F 142 Des Voeux Rd Central 3106 0872

Brian Lam

This former journalist can pull an espresso and take a beautiful picture of it

You’re in good hands with this man-bunned barista. Though he’s only been behind the espresso machine for two years, Brian picked up his craft quickly and is now a favouite of the Sai Ying Pun crowd, who flock to him for a morning dose of Winstons Coffee’s legendary flat-whites.

Why did you become a barista?

Just by the love of coffee. I started my first barista job in Wellington, New Zealand in 2015 when I was on a working holiday. Before that I had previously completed a coffee course, which went a long way to laying solid technical foundation.

What do you love most about your work?

Simply to serve coffee and make people happy. Before being a barista I was a journalist for four years, so I like stories. Every chat I have with people in the coffee shop is a story, of people, of the suburb, of the city, and of the country. I also love meeting new coffee folks, exchanging knowledge and ideas, and most importantly taking my passion "to the boundary of coffee", as Matt Perger (legendary barista) would say.

What’s your signature coffee?

Perfectly extracted coffee, served neat.

What do you do outside of work?

Coffee, journalism and photography.

Where can we find you?

Winstons Coffee

Winstons Coffee, Shop 4, 213 Queens Road West, Sai Ying Pun 2559 5078
www.winstonscoffee.com

Scottie Callaghan

Scotty Callaghan from Fineprint

This native Aussie has seven world-class championships to his name, and two decades of experience pulling coffees. His Peel Street café, Fine Print, quickly earned a reputation as one of Hong Kong’s best spots for coffee (and wine at night). If you can’t snag a seat inside, there’s a great stoop for people watching outside.  

Why did you become a barista?

I believe serving consistently excellent coffee is very hard and it requires a lot of discipline. It is also a great equaliser because everyone can afford a cup of coffee, and if yours is not consistently excellent people have plenty of choice elsewhere. So, to be competitive your coffee must be good, and the barista in an establishment is critical to this. In today’s day and age the barista techniques are evolving very fast, the way we made coffee just two years ago is very different to today.

What do you love most about your work?

The many awesome and interesting people I have met and travelling to coffee producing countries.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I am an avid trail runner.

What’s your signature coffee?

I have developed many over the years, but if I was going to choose one I would keep it simple and say a siphon coffee made using a high grade/92+ coffee natural process Ethiopian.

Where can we find you?

Fineprint

Fineprint, 38 Peel Street, Central 5503 6880
www.fineprint.hk

Cheng “Vergil” Tze Kiu

Vergil is the top Starbucks barista in the city

If this face looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably spotted Vergil at a few of your favourite Starbucks’ around the city. Vergil is a Master barista for the global coffee chain and their most recent Hong Kong Barista Champion. 


How did you become a barista?

I joined Starbucks in 2008 as a part time barista to learn about its culture, as the company was the subject of my final dissertation in college. I had many opportunities to interact with customers which led me to understand that coffee is not just a beverage or a commercial product, it is a culture and a bridge to human connection.

What do you love most about your work?

I am inspired by Starbucks approach to coffee science and artistry, and its commitment to nurture human connections. From showcasing different brewing methods to creating beautiful store designs, it is very rewarding to work for a company dedicated to making unique and meaningful customer experiences.

What do you do outside of work?


I like sports, especially wake-boarding. I also watch a lot movies about social issues.

What’s your signature coffee?

I really enjoy preparing a pour-over, particularly with coffees from Africa – I love their flavours of berries and citrus!

Where can we find you?

At Starbucks’ all around the city


Starbucks Coffee, various locations around Hong Kong 
www.starbucks.com.hk

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Story Told by

Sarah Engstrand