Baristas reveal their secrets on how to enjoy fresh coffee while hiking

by: Veronica Siu
01 Jun 2017

J: Jerry Wong (Barista of Bread, Espresso & Hong Kong)

Y: Yoyo Ho (Barista of Bread, Espresso & Hong Kong)

Q: Let’s talk about our hiking route for today.

J: We hiked along the eastern ridge of Kowloon Peak today, a very easy route. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the top where there’s a view of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon City, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Hong Kong Island. Today’s weather is very nice, we can see far.

Q: What do we need for making coffee on a hike?

J: First of all, water. When I go on hikes I usually use spring water. The flavour is very natural; unlike treated tapwater. You also need a thermometer, coffee beans and a scale. These are all essential tools.

Q: What kind of coffee beans should we choose for making coffee on hikes?

J: I would opt for light roasts or medium roasts. Flavours that are more on the sweet citrusy side are nice to quench your thirst after a hike.

Y: I agree, light roasts are more refreshing, especially after sweating a lot from climbing uphill, drinking more acidic coffee can help stimulate your salivary glands. Although, Hong Kong’s mountains are hardly very high, so it doesn’t really matter whether you use light roasts or dark roasts.

Q: What is your favorite coffee for hiking?

J: I prefer AeroPress. The brewing procedures may be more complex, but the resulting flavours are better and cleaner than French Press coffee. AeroPress tools are also non-glass, which is great for hiking as it lays lesser burden on your shoulders.

Q: How does hand-drip compare with espresso?

J: The difference between espresso and hand drip… our sincerity, I would say. Even though the brewing process of hand drip takes only 3 minutes, preparation procedures before that take around 5 to 10 minutes. The customer can taste right away whether the final product is on par. Of course, for espresso it is the same, but the necessary procedures and brewing techniques are very different. Also, to make an espresso the coffee is processed through a machine, whereas hand drip requires human input throughout, from grinding the beans to boiling the water, it all relies on our professional judgment.

Q: Why did you become a barista?

J: ‘Cause it’s cool!

Y: My ex was a barista; I learnt about coffee after knowing him. I used to go to his workplace a lot and the more I learned about coffee the more I was intrigued by it. So, after graduating from school, I jumped straight into the industry.

M: For me, this dates back to when I was 18 and had a part time job - my first encounter as a barista with coffee. I found it quite special. The best reward is when customers finish the coffee that I’ve made for them. Holding onto the empty mug, no extra compliments or “thank you” are needed – the satisfaction in that moment, you cannot buy with money.

Q: Did anyone ever tell you to give up your career as a barista?

Y: Yes, my family always does. They’ve told me that there is no future in coffee and that I won’t be able to make any money. But at least I’m doing something that I like; unlike some others who had perhaps invested 10 years of their career in the financial industry, only to realise that they do not actually like what they are doing. At least, right now, I am giving my all to something I love.

Q: What is your favorite coffee?

Y: I like black coffee. Without the milk, I can taste the distinctive flavours of each type of coffee bean produced in different countries. Also, in that way, I can taste the distinctive character of the barista.

M: Same for me. Black coffee retains the most original, natural taste of the coffee beans, without any modification that is the most authentic and gives the best taste.

Q: What is the character of Yoyo’s coffee?

J: Haha, that would depend on what her character is. I actually rarely drink her coffee. But she has a lot of skill. As a young 19 year old barista, she has only been in touch with coffee as a barista for slightly more than a year. Her professional knowledge already surpasses many other more experienced baristas.

Q: What about Yoyo’s brewing technique?

J: Her brewing technique? What’s special about your brewing technique?

Y: At the very least, I can tell others why I had brewed the coffee the way I did and which notes I would like to emphasise.

Q: What do you think of Jerry’s coffee?

Y: I always have his hand drip coffee. The concentration is normal and you can tell from the coffee that the barista is very sincere. Each time, other than serving the coffee to customers, he takes the time to explain to them the characteristics of the coffee beans and even gives them some ground coffee to smell, for them to taste the aroma of the coffee. You can tell that he has a lot of passion.

Q: Do you think you could ever get bored of coffee?

Y: A lot of people joke about me changing careers to brewing milk tea. But so far, no.

J: Same. From 18 years old till now, it has always been my dream to have my very own coffee shop. This is why the degrees that I have taken are all related to management and the part-time jobs that I have done are all coffee related. And again, it goes back to what I was saying earlier, satisfaction from customers finishing your coffee is enough motivation to keep me going.

Q: What if your customers tell you they don’t like your coffee?

J: All I can say is that, we have different preferences.

Y: It happens. When a customer comes over and comments, for instance, that the flavour is not strong enough, I tend to ask them more questions for a better grasp of their taste, then, to the best of my ability, make something that would hopefully satisfy the customer.

Q: Do you find trying hand drip coffee from different coffee shops a risky thing to do, the coffee may not suit your taste?

Y: No. when I visit other coffee shops, I choose the coffee beans that I like first. How the barista executes the rest I will not interfere with, because that is their way of making coffee. And the way they make coffee - that is their character. It isn’t anything risky; it is exactly the reason why I came to their shop, to experience their coffee, to recognise our differences and to pick up their strengths as my own.

Video & Photo : Ron Chiu

Translation: Veronica

Illustration: DrawingHoliday