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Hong Kong’s coffee shops have long been early morning fuel stations, weekday satellite offices and afternoon hideaways for caffeine-fuelled gossip. In Sheung Wan, the next district to the west of Central, a number of independent coffee shops are giving yawn-inducing Starbucks and the local franchise Pacific Coffee some creative, charming and delicious competition.
(At the time of posting, about to open on Upper Station Street is Antipodean.)
Café Loisl – European style peaceful hideaway
This café is soooo popular the café combined with jewelery gallery/shop recently converted the gallery into more dining space. The secret of its success? Incredible coffee served by baristas that really care, home made cakes by German co-owner Sirkka, whose strudel is a must-have, and outside seating streets from any traffic. Sausage of the day hints at the owners’ nationalities, and their breakfasts are pulling in early risers too.
Barista Jam – Melbourne coffee quality and training
Owner William brought his coffee culture from Melbourne, where those Antipodeans take coffee super seriously, straight to Jervois Street, and was an instant hit with the locals. Barista is a mix of café and coffee training centre, fascinating bits of equipment taking coffee brewing to exclusive levels. The café is humming all day, with a couple of small tables, a communal table with benches and a few high seats at the counter downstairs, a long table upstairs. Their lunchtime pastas are great value and addictively tasty, and their iced coffee is pure rocket fuel.
Cafe Deadend – alfresco breezes on Po Hing Fong
With a suntrap terrace and next door Po’s Bakery, Deadend is one of Sheung Wan’s most popular newcomers. The design is Zen cool, the interior of open kitchen overlooking the white space, with wooden and metal tables and chairs, bare light bulbs overhead. The cafe opens to the terrace (weekends only), where tables and chairs sit in front of greenery that hangs decoratively down the whitewashed wall. Order their delicious bagel with beautifully pink-tinged beetroot-marinaded salmon, dill cream cheese and salad, a work of art, the poached eggs and prosciutto, or Granny Smith filled spiced apple tart. The coffee menu includes the too-tempting Dirty (cold milk topped with a shot of espresso) and plenty of iced options to kick the heat.
Homei – cute local café on boutique Tai Ping Shan Street
There’s something undeniably attractive about the playfulness of this little coffee shop named after the word ‘home’ and the owner’s name ‘Mei’. Outside, two chairs and a table invite you to stretch out in the sun on a street that has very little traffic, while inside the air-con cools the interior of just a handful of tables. Child-like murals on the wall are cute not kitsch, and the menu has a huge list of coffees, teas and snacks. The sandwiches are generously filled between ciabatta bread, and the coffees hit the spot. Unfortunately there’s no wifi, but with the limited seating perhaps that’s a good thing.
Java Java – stylish and sofa-comfy
The service is strangely DIY at this funky, living room-styled coffee shop, but it is a great place for catching up on emails, having a chat with friends while sunk into a sofa, or thumbing through the numerous coffee table books on design, spas, travel etc. Try an espresso macchiato - the coffee here is Illy, and you’ll be blown off your sofa. They also have Chai Tea Lattes, American malted milk shakes and protein shakes, bakery smacks and sandwiches, as well as soup, pizza and quiche. Their live band nights on Fridays and Saturdays and alcoholic license makes them an interesting part of the community.
Heirloom – charming open café with eclectic menu
Although there are strange opening hours here (it’s closed on Monday and from 5.30 onwards on Sunday when the caffeine culture is still going strong nearby), this beautifully airy café is a great place for sitting in the sunshine or at their communal high table and tucking into a coffee and carrot cake, or a lunch or dinner of tacos and Balinese salad. The service can be a bit hit or miss, but the atmosphere is friendly and the loo makes ablutions fun with its cool interior where there’s even space for a bicycle.
mymy caffe – great coffee in the tiniest of packages
Downsizing is Hong Kong’s national pastime and at mymy caffe Josephine and Connie have condensed a quality coffee shop into a kiosk. Blink and you’d miss it, if it weren’t for the European bicycle parked outside. Inside the office girls turned baristas rustle up great Italian Barbera coffee and while they offer lots of different styles they love it when you order espresso. Knock it back and the rich, slightly bitter liquid best softened with sugar is the perfect pick-me-up. The girls give out a chocolate covered coffee bean as a treat when you leave.
Coffee lovers in Sheung Wan are spoiled for choice.
Visit Barista Jam for a perfect espresso drink, or any other coffee-related needs: They sell whole beans and a full range of brewing equipment, too. Hungry? Order the soft scrambled eggs or a bowl of carbonara.
On a leafy terrace by the steps of Pound Lane, Café Loisl offers a little slice of old Europe, with an exquisite marble topped counter, art deco light fixtures, a newspaper rack, and some of the best sachertorte and strüdel (house made, natürlich!) this side of Vienna, a fine accompaniment to the carefully made coffee drinks and teas.
The Cupping Room has just opened in Sheung Wan, which means you no longer have to trek to Stanley for their assiduously sourced beans and expert brewing (this is the only place in Asia to serve Counter Culture Coffee). Two big communal tables offer lots of seating.
More of a tea person? Visit the (almost painfully) charming Teakha for interesting brews and excellent cakes, including the best scones I've had in Hong Kong.