A Coffee Day in Fo Tan, Hong Kong (Pt. I)

New Territories, the upper region of Hong Kong connected to the Shenzhen, China, is always a strange part of city to me. Even though I grew up in the Hong Kong Island, the completely opposite side of the city, but never explored the rural area often whilst youth. In this visit, took the high-speed rail from airport to the Shatin stop, and checked in the Regency Hotel by the riverside. It's a nice and very presence stay there.

Good habit -- #COFFEETOUR. With that opportunity, I asked for the mighty internet for some local guidances. Searched online and found a couple specialty coffee shops and chain-stores to study the business models, local coffee culture and customer habits. To me, it's impressive how well the city infra-system, like the housing, transportation and community centers, is developed by the government. Besides that, the coffee drinking seems to gain popularity as well. The influence of the Western culture in Hong Kong was always there since it's a British colony in their past life before China took back the city in 1997, but unlike anything's happening today: Pedestrians holding a cup of coffee on hand becomes a common scenery.

Crostini | hong kong

Products Score: 75 Service Score: 80 Store Score: 80

Final {verdict}: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5

I call them the "Blue Bottle Coffee" in Hong Kong, and they're more competence in many ways. Already have 20 different shops expanded over the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories in such a small city with 7.37 Millions population. Founded in October 2013 (Officially registered) by a 30+ years experienced garment industry veteran (I call them the "Blue Bottle Coffee" in Hong Kong, and they're more competence in many ways. Already have 20 different shops expanded over the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories in such a small city with 7.37 Millions population. Founded in October 2013 (Officially registered) by a 30+ years experienced garment industry veteran (I call them the "Blue Bottle Coffee" in Hong Kong, and they're more competence in many ways. Already have 20 different shops expanded over the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories in such a small city with 7.37 Millions population.

Founded in October 2013 (Officially registered) by a 30+ years experienced garment industry veteran (Interview in Cantonese), whom never graduated from elementary school, immigrated to Hong Kong from China when he's about 10+ years old. His mission is to bring the Michelin-starred quality gourmet cakes at an affordable price to the general public for fulfilling his childhood's dream. As seen, at the very beginning, the cakes and pastries were the main entree what they focused on and the coffee was just the "sidekick". Until the day when a close friend of the founder to him that their coffee tasted horribly bc it was served by an automated coffee machine to accompany the fast working pace of customers. After a long internal discussion, they abandoned the idea of using coffee machine to brew but to have every cup of coffee hand crafted. Today, their business is so successful that two other established bakery-chains had "copied" their store design, pastry style and service, which created confusion among customers and controversy in the small international city.

The distant European style gourmet shops have rapidly attracted a lot of press coverages and word-of-mouths since founded. Each store, elegantly designed in the Italian style, can be easily identified by its all lowercase Times New Roman font "crostini" name, and the logo of a 19th Century huge front-wheel bicycle loaded with a basket of pastries. The glossy black colored door frame created a strong contrast to its neon-blue light shadowed metal logo signage.

The branch I visited was in the Fo Tan industrial zone inside a shopping centre, buried in the concrete forrest. During the late lunch hour, there wasn't too much foot traffic in action but neither a surprise to me.

In front of their store was the very colorful gourmet cakes housed behind the crystal-clean glass. Your attention would immediately be drawn over. Following by that was the puffy, French influenced loaf, bread, croissant and danish before the cashier. No one can resist not ordering one or two pieces for coupling with a delightful cup of coffee. But, I did bc of the big lunch I'd. Since Hong Kong now has the most expensive real estate in worldwide, their store size was capped in minimal to lower overhead. Conversely, in this small store, three staffs, dressed in white shirts and black pants with a logo printed apron, were standing by to serve their customers. Per staffs, they're not certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), but all trained internally for their brewing and servicing skills under the founder's living philosophy (Be Joyfulness, Equality, Respectful and Calm). By judging from the beautiful art in the cup of latte I ordered, you could rarely tell that apart if they're trained under the guideline of a corporate or the SCAA. The latte was frothy and rich in aroma flavor, even though it catered to the light blend which most Asians preferred in taste. Unless the last sip of coffee was reached, the printed "it's all about taste" slogan and company name on the mug wouldn't be discovered. Maybe, served in purpose as the last mile of a designed experience.

Moreover, inside the shop, your eyes never got rested bc the decorations and presented merchandises. With the affluent brand and the founder's yearly experience in gourmet industry, the "crostini" has not only been focusing in food and drink service, but expanded into florist, fashion and gift, such as men's blazer, women's cocoon dress and umbrellas. From their store design included the portable battery rental and wall-mounted USB port, you can tell they're very thoughtful and detail oriented to deliver an excellent customer experience.

Sitting at the back room and seeing the concrete wall with three identical bird cage liked art pieces, it was a contented moment to do some critical thinking in my short stay.

On the top of their retail business, their ecommerce site is very well developed, comparing with many other Specialty Coffee Shops I've seen. Their User Interface (UI) and Web Content are very comprehensive and up-to-date, including a download session of their cake menu for the convenience of their online and offline customers (At this point, I didn't test if they accept online order in-store pickup service). In an additional, they're also developing an App to rapport with customers and build stronger loyalty.

To me, in term of business development and management, the "crostini" is ahead of the game in the specialty coffee shop industry. It'll be a sturdy contender to the Blue Bottle and Seesaw Coffee if ever expanding overseas.

Sadly, my phone was broken in Hong Kong after visiting both Taiwan and Shanghai in the 1st and 2nd week of my Asia trip; And my MacBook Pro failed after drinking a bottle of yogurt in Taiwan during the extended stay of my Asia Trip. Data wasn't backed up in time, neither do they were able to recover at the Apple Store and its Authorized Data Recovery Dealer.

There're a couple more specialty coffee shops and roasters I wanna share, such as Starbucks Reserve and the "StayReal Cafe" founded by 'Ashin', the Lead Singer of a very popular Taiwanese band, May Day, in Taipei, and the "Cup Cat Coffee", the "FUMI Coffee", the "Fish Eye Specialty Coffee" and the "Coffee Belt" in the French Concession area of the Jing'an District in Shanghai, China, especially now the number of Shanghai's coffee shops suddenly boomed to Ten of Thousands within two years time. I'll try my very best to write about my observation without the support of any visual. (Withdrawal from the misfortunate, I did record a couple snapshot of them in my Instagram, so check it out here).

(Con't. "A Coffee Day in Fo Tan, Hong Kong (Pt. II)")

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