Joyce Ho is based in Hong Kong where she has been a barista at Black Coffee for the past six months. She noted in her reply to the interview that in Cantonese, coffee is written as 咖啡 and pronounced as “Gaa Fe,” relating to the bitterness of the drink once brought out by cha chaan teng dark roast coffees. These are different from the new, modern treatment of specialty coffee which is not just refreshing, but brings more variable and interesting tasting notes now preferred in Hong Kong.
In this interview, Joyce outlines the dramatic growth of specialty coffee shops in Hong Kong over the past two years, the emergence of local coffee growing, and the importance of both coffee knowledge and an interest in sharing.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?This is the third year of my coffee journey. When I was a student, instant coffee was a daily need. Once I had a chance to attend coffee skill class, I found that I had a strong desire to explore coffee further. After I attended a coffee tutorial class for few months, I started brewing coffee professionally in cafe.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a fast-pace city where everything needs to be handled as soon as possible. Brewing coffee via drip bag is a highly effective way to meet the customer need, which is common in offices now. As for the industry, near one specialty coffee shop has opened each week. Some of them are roasters too.
Moreover, there are two small farms harvesting coffee in Hong Kong. They are harvesting a mature coffee bean, making simple processing, then selling green beans to local roasters to generate real Hong Kong coffee. Although we do not have high mountains and the most suitable weather to grow coffee, the system of specialty coffee is becoming developed.
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
At first, even if you may not like coffee, you must fall in love with coffee when you meet it. No matter whether you would like to be a barista, roaster or tutor, gaining knowledge of coffee in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geography limitless! Hard-work is the basic criteria to make coffee if you want to be a professional.
Secondly, you should enjoy sharing coffee. The input and output of coffee from your mind. I believe the best way to improve your skills it so keep practicing and sharing. Output is about promoting specialty coffee to others, introducing your brewing method and the beans…etc. Never remain shy!
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
Before we make coffee, we should acknowledge what coffee is. Where does coffee come from? How to grow a coffee tree? What is the anatomy of coffee bean? How the espresso machines work… etc. Just keep asking questions of coffee.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
Taiwan CHLIV and YouTube channel YUANCAFE. CHLIV, found by Chris Lin, is a famous cafe in Taiwan. As a world latte art champion, Chris introduces several tutorials about fine-line latte art on his Instagram. His stable and elegant pouring technique is worth learning. YUENCAFE shares different knowledge and findings about hand drip coffee in experimental ways.
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
Brewing and making latte art are satisfying for now. As a next step, I want to get back to basics of coffee, processing and roasting. Nowadays, there are many processing ways to enhance the flavour of coffee, not just simply washed, natural or semi-washed. I have tried a kind of coffee with cherry-process which amazed me so I want to explore another side of a little coffee beans.
Find Joyce on Instagram via @joycencoffee