I heard about Barista Caffe after its barista, who was relatively new to the field, snatched a top rank in the competition, beating out all those contestants who were mostly experienced barista. Then I heard about the proprietor, who is well known in local coffee scene and media, opened up a shop in Quarry Bay but then it's low profile I heard practically nothing and I'm not sure how things go... Thus, before I made a visit, I don't expect much. I was prepared to go in there, drank some coffee and saw what the fuss about this place, left and never to go back. Turn out I was quite wrong on this one.
The low key shop front & looking back
The shop situates among those steel metal working and fresh market community so, in a way, it's an eyesore for the location. Still the decor is really nice and I felt quite comfortable once inside the shop.
1st Orchestrale in action in HK.
Looking at the counter I saw the first Orchestrale in the real cafe in Hong Kong, the one that is really a workhorse in a cafe, not a show piece. I had one experience with this machine in Thailand but nothing's memorable. On its right hand side, there's a Bezzera Spring Lever (thanks to one of the coffee aficionado that told me about this machine) which was not in use on the day I visited. I'm not really a fan of lever espresso machine; most I get is a round and easy cup though, with the increasing popular of pressure profiling, this could be "the beauty of the imperfection", getting into pressure profiling on the cheap vs. US$20,000 for the modern machine La Marzocco Strada delivers.
Just the look. The milk drink failed... :(
Let start with my usual, cappuccino. This cup, however, was a disappointment. The drink was quite hot vs. the request for warm temperature. The texture just wasn't there while the milk sweetness was virtually non existent on top of the milky taste in the drink. In all, this milky, not so sweet, no texture reminded me of milk drink from McCafe that used semi auto in Hong Kong. The coffee base was not very forward though I can sense some spice toward the end. Coffee base itself was not a deal breaker but bits of things made this cup a 'turn off' for me. If this milk drink is its benchmark, it needed an overhaul on how they do the milk. Also, had I stopped here, I would have missed the gem the shop has, its black coffee
Very good light roast blend. Highly recommended
Now, this is an interesting cup and the star of that day, espresso. The crema was quite thin on the top but crema's crema... Let dive into the cup. Making by the same barista who made cappuccino for me, my first sip told me that this is not a bad coffee at all. The roast was light enough to let its nice tasting notes shine through. I got a chock full of nut after my first sip so much so I thought I had peanut butter in the cup. It was surprisingly not that offending as it was quite creamy. One shouldn't take it lightly on this note as I am usually against nutty note in the coffee. The fact I can take this kind of blend, to me, really speaks volume to the coffee offered at Pregio.
The nutty note was followed by a nice acidity that the lighter roast coffee usually has and it's real nice. This 'nut attack' and acidity implied lots of light roast Brazil in the blend if I have to guess. And that was that, not much of a mouth feel or anything, kinda like the profile of the third waver roaster that I typically like. A moment later, some dark dirty funky note raised its ugly head up but this is much milder than anything I had from 18 grams in Causeway Bay and Cafe Corridor which roasted their coffee toward the dark side. So my first time with Orchestrale wasn't too bad but this is nothing comparing to spectacular machines like Synesso, Slayer and Strada for sure. If I were to improve this espresso, the intensity of all tasting note is where it was short of. Mind you the cup was good but can be better, much better.
While I won't rate the blend the best, even though the proprietor told me it was used in the competition that won its barista the top title, I think it's a very bold move for Pregio to use this kind of light roast profile in the neighborhood. Look at the success of Xen Coffee and the relatively darker iteration Cook Light used when it was in business there, one would have thought the neighborhood embraced a darker roast profile and the lighter roast may not see the light of the day. For lighter roast to shine in a milk drink which should be a more common order, it has to be meticulously prepared at the lower end of the temp while local seemed to like hotter than hot which will shock the taste bud, eliminating all the nuances in the coffee. I am not sure how long Pregio will be able to maintain this roast profile. I can only prey they will as this is the kind of coffee I can drink and suggest others to try it out. As of this point, I really admire Pregio's bravery in choosing the profile which is closer to the current Indie trend that jumped start the whole seriously good coffee and the enthusiasm toward good coffee these days.
Nice for Brazil. Somewhat watery cup though
My siphon coffee was prepared by the proprietor himself which I learned about later after I paid the bill. I was offered three choice of Colombia, Brazil and Uganda. All of them, to me, are yawning offering. I asked for what the barista thinks the best/he likes. I got a Brazil... Brazil from a siphon, you gotta be kidding right. I was, again, wrong on this.
The cup was not bad after all. We talk about Brazil here so we are talking about nuttiness in the cup, hardly my liking but it did the job. The light roast level of this estate Brazil really saved the day with acidity in the cup that I didn't expect to enjoy but I really did today. Mind you the cup was served piping hot and, to me, the best way to drink the coffee is to cool it down to closer to your body temp. I asked for an empty water cup, spooning in about 2 tablespoons of coffee and swirl to reduce the temp... It works out better this way and I get those tasting note via this method vs. right off the cup which is way too hot and one didn't get much thing from it.
Of note was the cup felt somewhat watery. It showed that the coffee is good but the tasting note are front and center, fading fast and lacking a bit in the middle, coming back toward the end with some nutty note, kinda like a two humped graph. Mind you I'm nit picking here and this tasting profile is quite common for almost all cafes, maybe a bit stronger on the tasting note for some. The one that rarely does this two humped curve that comes to my mind is Knockbox Coffee Company, the place that one can get mostly a slowly dissipating almost linear tasting note which allows the overlapping of layers over layers if the coffee is good enough from their brew coffee program. To me, this declining curve is the holy grail of brewing program; not easy to achieve for sure but you can get one if you look hard enough.
Still, I need to point out that the coffee is very decent and drinkable I could see myself enjoy drinking this cup anytime.
My damage that day
In all, this is a good find on the Quarry Bay area I wonder why it did not get much publicity for what they offer which is quite good. I was told Sunday is when they are focusing more on coffee lovers and less on food as the proprietor himself will be there to do the job. Guess I will show up there more often and see how things go.
If you are in the area and wants espresso, Pregio by Barista Caffe is the place I recommend. If you like lighter roast coffee, it's Pregio; darker roast, try Xen Coffee.
Table Wait Time: 0 minute(s)
Date of Visit: Dec 28, 2011
Spending per head: Approximately HKD100(Lunch)Other Ratings:
Value for Money 3