Independent cafes unite to give coffee lovers an alternative to chain-stores
Event to promote coffee culture draws crowd eager to support a new union of local brewers
The city's first union for both coffee shop owners and baristas showed off local brewing skills in Central yesterday, offering coffee lovers an alternative to the big brands so visible in Hong Kong.
The Cafe Union, a group of 10 independent cafes looking to promote coffee culture and work with other coffee businesses, held an inauguration event at Wo On Lane in Lan Kwai Fong.
Cups of handmade coffee - both drip-brewed and siphoned - were made fresh to order on the street. Even the rain failed to dampen the lively mood as aficionados queued up for their cups.
"I am actually not against chain-store coffee shops. They play a part in making coffee a part of daily life and local culture," said Felix Wong Kim-fei, owner of Cafe Corridor in Causeway Bay.
Considered a veteran in the local speciality coffee scene, Wong, 40, has been brewing coffee since 2001 and now roasts his own beans.
Chester Tam Fu-to, the owner of Pregio in Quarry Bay, said chain stores were not affecting his business.
"What we serve is very different," the 37-year-old said. "Taste is very subjective and customers should have the opportunity to compare and choose."
Tam said bigger factors affecting the industry were high rents and a high turnover of baristas. High rents made it hard for young people to open their own businesses, he said.
"It takes six months to train a good barista, and then they leave," Wong said. He said the lack of an upward career path due to the inability to open their own cafes meant many people left the industry.
The idea of forming a union came in September, said Tam, who approached a few other baristas, including Wong.
"We all have a heart and passion for the industry. The goal is to exchange skills, tips and training … but also to teach the public about coffee," Wong said.
Accro Coffee, Barista Caffe, Barista Jam, Cafe Golden, CoCo Espresso, Colour Brown Coffee, Espresso Alchemy, SillyBoo and Xen Coffee have all since jumped on board.
The industry is growing, Tam said, with more Hongkongers enjoying coffee that is handmade. There is also growing interest in the different types of brewing methods, roasting and beans, he said.
Wong said the union is planning more events as well as the launch of a "coffee passport", which will enable customers to visit all 10 cafes in the union for a cup of coffee.