Header images courtesy of @eatortrip (via Instagram)
It seems like there are artisanal coffee shops are popping up in every district nowadays, from picturesque village cafés in the New Territories to hidden cafés in Yau Tsim Mong and artsy coffee spots in Sham Shui Po. But long before the city’s vegan-friendly dessert cafés and cafés with sea views came into existence, Sheung Wan was the vanguard of Hong Kong’s third-wave coffee scene.
Today, coffee shops still line the streets of Sheung Wan, from sprawling pet-friendly venues to narrow alleyway java joints. Seeing as the Localiiz team has tried most of them (what with our office being in Sheung Wan), jotting down a few of our favourites seems like a pretty good use of our caffeine-fuelled productivity. In the interest of comprehensiveness, we’re also including cafés from Poho—the cluster of streets in the upper reaches of Sheung Wan typically considered to be its own precinct.
Over the last few years, Halfway Coffee has quietly expanded from one narrow shop space off Cat Street (or Upper Lascar Row, as it’s officially known) to four separate branches across Sheung Wan and Kowloon. The signature Halfway Coffee style—vintage Chinese porcelain, mismatched wooden furniture, and quirky décor—is present across all its locations, but we like the original spaces around Cat Street best. Happily, style and substance are both abundant here, and the drinks that Halfway Coffee serves in its trademark patterned cups taste just as good as they look. Their standard teas and coffees are great, but for something unique to this one-of-a-kind café, try the black sugar latte (starting from $50) or apple cinnamon tea ($48).
Halfway Coffee, 12 Tung Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 9511 7197
Halfway Coffee, 26 Upper Lascar Row, Sheung Wan | (+852) 9511 7197
Situated on a picturesque corner on the border between Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, Detour isn’t exactly out of the way—but we wouldn’t mind walking a few extra steps for their avocado & za’atar sourdough ($60) and flat white ($38) even if it was. This black-tiled antipodean-style café is relatively small, but if you happen to swing by during off-peak hours, we recommend grabbing one of the seats by the floor-to-ceiling windows for a bit of people-watching. If you’re partial to a glass of vino, their original branch in Sai Ying Pun is also a natural wine bar (perfect for a coffee-turned-drinks date!).
Detour, 379 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan
Australian coffee culture has been having a moment for the last few years, but visitors to 15 Square Street will know that Swedes are also deeply fanatical about their coffee—after all, the average Swede drinks 1,500 coffees per year (or so says the neon signage in the window). This Swedish multi-brand lifestyle store doubles as a hip café, meaning that you can grab a cinnamon bun ($40) and a bottle of eau de parfum in one go. Founder Alexis Holm is also the man behind Tiny Island Maps, so you can browse all manner of beautiful Hong Kong-themed prints, coasters, and even temporary tattoos while sipping on your Mayan hot chocolate ($55), produced in collaboration with Hong Kong’s very own Conspiracy Chocolate.
Squarestreet Kaffe, 15 Square Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2362 1086
Get your steps and a well-made coffee in with a visit to Elixir. Located on a quiet, leafy ladder street between Gough Street and Hollywood Road, this chic café is decorated entirely in a soothing palette of cool greys. Order an osmanthus-infused cold brew tonic ($55) and a sweet treat from their sleek granite bar—the current seasonal special is hojicha pudding with black sugar mochi ($50)—and, weather willing, grab a floor cushion and watch the world go by from the steps outside. Cat lovers will adore the resident moggy, a friendly tabby named Charlie.
Elixir, 9 Mee Lun Street, Central | (+852) 6083 0915
Founded by champion barista Dawn Chan, Amber takes its coffee very seriously. Located along a busy thoroughfare with a close-up view of the passing trams, Amber is a welcome respite from the traffic and noise outside. Every detail has been painstakingly thought out, from the aromatic coffees on offer to the handmade ceramic cups (which Amber describes as a “sculpture of a soul”), and beautiful wave-patterned coffee bean containers. If you happen to work around Sheung Wan or the western part of Central, why not start your day off on the right foot with a steaming hot cappuccino ($38) and a pain au chocolat (starting from $20)?
Amber Coffee Brewery, 142 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan | (+852) 3106 0872
For a quiet, under-the-radar spot that’s photogenic and pet-friendly, check out Gwee Coffee & More, a peaceful little coffee shop tucked away in Poho. The café, which shares its space with indie eyewear brand Khromis, is known for its elaborate drinks and frequent collaborations with independent local businesses. Most recently, they’ve featured homemade bagels from Instagram bakery Toute La Nuit, vegan cakes and pastries from Lucy Coffee & Food in Cheung Sha Wan, and handcrafted ceramics from Sean Gallery. As a result, the food menu is ever-changing—as is the seasonal drinks menu, come to think of it—but make sure to say hi to the sweet resident cats while you mull over your options.
Gwee Coffee & More, 1 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 6612 1852
This cute little café on Jervois Street is one of our favourite all-rounder spots for a quick bite and a cuppa cha or joe; during busy lunch hours, it’s not uncommon to see patrons perched in their deep bay windows chatting away with a drink in hand. If you don’t mind missing out on their savoury dishes, come in the morning or late afternoon to try their famous cakes: the Earl Grey chiffon cake ($68) is a best-seller, while the Hokkaido soufflé cheesecake ($68) is creamy without being too stodgy.
Kaffeine, 108 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2639 5100
Sheung Wan may be full of fancy cafés now—enough to warrant this guide!—but that wasn’t always the case. Barista Jam was at the forefront of the district’s third-wave coffee shops, and has peddled artisanal coffee and every bit of expert kit you can imagine for close to 11 years. From the outside, its unassuming space looks like a speciality shop for baristas—which it is—but inside, you’ll also find a comfortable, cosy space suitable for coffee dates and quick lunches. You can find all your standard espresso-based drinks here, but for an education in speciality joe, ask any of the friendly baristas to recommend something from the cylinders of single-origin beans and house blends lining the wall. Many of the beans have been roasted-in house by the owner himself, and you can select a few different types for a tasting flight.
Barista Jam, 97 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2854 2211
At 7,000 square feet, popular home-grown café brand Elephant Grounds’ Sheung Wan roastery is easily one of the biggest coffee shops in Hong Kong—meaning that you will almost always be able to find a spot to sit and enjoy the Wi-Fi. Hankering for more than just an iced latte ($48) or Swiss mocha ($45)? Peruse the food menu for your pick of nourishing breakfasts, fresh-baked treats, and all-day meals. Furry friends are extremely well-catered to here as well, with a dedicated menu of doggy snacks and a dedicated staffer to man the pet-friendly terrace.
Elephant Grounds Roastery, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan | (+852) 35800554