We follow the story of two cafés in Hong Kong that opened their businesses during the height of COVID-19.
BY TIGGER CHATURABUL
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Tigger Chaturabul
From the editor: Yesterday, we began to follow cafés that opened in Hong Kong during the pandemic. Today we learn of two more, whose plans and business models have swayed since a recent resurgance of cases in the city.
Coffeed is a coffee experience space by the founders of Coffeeder, an events and media organization that focuses on promoting the coffee industry in Hong Kong and connecting it with the greater Asia region. While it’s not an F&B outlet, Coffeed offers a curated selection of beans, equipment, and specialty chocolate at its shopfront in the city’s Central District.
“Coffeed is like an extension of Coffeeder,” says Fiona Lau, co-founder of both businesses. “While Coffeeder mainly handled events and collaborations with coffee brands, Coffeed is a way for us to interact directly with coffee consumers and is a consolidation of a lot [of] ideas we had over the years. Now we finally have the time to implement them.” It only took a month, from mid-April to mid-May, for them to plan and open Coffeed.
The shop is more than a coffee lifestyle store—their plans include making it into a workshop and event space, as well as a place for customers to do their own brewing in a home-like environment. “We initially had it set up so that people could come here, choose their beans, and brew it themselves using some of the equipment we offer,” says Fiona. “It’s a chance for people to try a lot of different products like filters, drippers, and scales before buying them. We also want to make it like a home brewing space because it’s uncommon for people to visit each others’ homes in Hong Kong and brew together. By coming to Coffeed, they can try different brewing methods and beans with their friends and share their experiences.”
All of that has been put on hold due to the new wave of COVID-19 transmissions however. They’ve switched their focus to online sales for the time being, encouraged by the surge of people interested in home brewing, and one of their specialties is offering sets of hand-drip beans that contain a single dose from different coffee origins.
“With Coffeeder, we planned to hold more events this year but so far, we haven’t even been able to execute one. However, we still wanted to accomplish something. So when this space became available and with our team having more free time, it was a good opportunity to open Coffeed,” says Fiona. “Since last year with the protests and this year with the pandemic, anything you do now will be a struggle, so it’s actually a good time to not be afraid to try new things because you don’t know what will happen anyway.”
Good Day Coffee
Jacquelene Chan always wanted to open a coffee shop that catered to the local neighborhood. That’s why in addition to specialty coffee, Good Day Coffee also offers simple and inexpensive sandwiches, toasts, and snacks similar to the Hong Kong style of quick diner service that people living or working nearby could pick up on their way to work. In less than two weeks of Good Day’s grand opening on July 5, however, five cases of COVID-19 were reported in the block surrounding the café in the new wave of local transmission, and the once bustling street traffic around the area fell silent.
“We mostly focus on takeaway orders anyway, so even though a lot of shops have temporarily closed in this area because of the outbreak, we still stay open so that people around here have something to eat,” Jacquelene says. The quiet, neighborly vibe of this secluded area of Yau Ma Tei is one of the reasons Jacquelene opened Good Day here. “A lot of elderly people or neighbors in the area really show their care and concern and often come to share news or even do their own disinfection of public handrails in the area,” she says.
Although Jacquelene didn’t do much promotion before Good Day opened, she found herself busier than she expected. “A lot of people have come to support me and many foodies, bloggers, and media have featured the shop,” she says. With international travel restricted indefinitely, many Hong Kongers have turned to local tourism and flock as fast as they can to the latest venue. (A lot of it is for the ’gram.)
Every day is unpredictable, and for the most part, Jacquelene has been handling the entire shop’s operation on her own. Throughout our interview, she managed to serve customers, make coffee, and bake an entire chocolate cake while simultaneously sharing her story with me—that’s passion and talent right there.
“I never had a definitive timeline for when I wanted to open a shop, but it’s always been my dream,” Jacquelene says. “I started planning to open Good Day two months ago and a lot of people asked me how I can dare to do such a thing now, but I think if you want to do something, you need to take advantage of your own abilities at this time and just do it. If your abilities last until you’re 60 and you’ve already lived half of that, or if you’re going to have kids a couple years later, etc., then you need to do what you want when you can.”
She continues, “Even if you have a dream, though, you also need to have a plan. If you have a plan and follow it, then the route you take shouldn’t be too far out of your expectations. Realistically, your dream might not directly translate into an actual business, but you still need to stand firm and stay motivated. When you have your own business, it might be really exhausting, but at least it’s all your own.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tigger Chaturabul tried to be a barista for two years until she realized she was better suited behind the business than behind the bar. She now runs her own copywriting and design studio, Curious Typhoon Studio, that serves F&B and other small businesses in Hong Kong. Her free-range creative lifestyle allows her to spend all her time in coffee shops everywhere.