Founder & Roaster of Return Coffee Roastery
“My wife was the one who first got me interested in specialty coffee when she started as an instructor teaching coffee courses. We always had plenty of coffee at home and I drank my fair share but it wasn’t until I enrolled in a course myself that I started to appreciate the efforts that go into a good cup of coffee. At the time, I was still working as a retail sales manager and taking courses in the evening but pretty quickly, I knew I wanted to do something in the coffee industry. With Day Ng, a classmate in several coffee classes, we talked about the idea of starting a coffee shop but the investment was too big at the time so instead, we started with a workshop studio teaching people about the basics of things like brewing and latte art. We didn’t fully realize the amount of people interested in coffee until we put our new business up on Groupon and before we knew it, hundreds of people had enrolled in our latte art class.
As much as I enjoyed brewing coffee and teaching, I found myself captivated by roasting. The constant fine-tuning to pinpoint the exact variables for a perfect roast became a challenge that I loved. It also fit right into my personality, allowing me to work by myself where I find it very peaceful when I’m roasting. With Return Coffee, we want to help our customers understand the effort that a good cup of coffee goes through, from the hands of the farmers to the brew of the barista.
What coffee roaster are you using?
There are two Proroasters that I use. One is much smaller and can only roast 500g at a time; this was the machine that I first learned on. The other is the newer and much larger roaster that we use for our larger orders.
How do you normally brew coffee at home?
Keep it simple with a v60 drip.
What's your v60 recipe?
Ratio: 15g of coffee to 250ml of water
Water temp: 90 degrees celcius
Grind Size: Medium-fine (like table salt)
Target brew time: 2:15
What is it about coffee that you like the most?
Coffee is really challenging and complex; even the same coffee from the same farm at different times of the year will change. It’s in my personality to want to try and overcome these challenges with my roasting. When you get all the variables just right and end up with a well roasted coffee that reveals all it’s characteristics, it’s a very rewarding moment.
What are your thoughts towards the Hong Kong coffee scene?
There’s been a large increase in the number of people curious about and appreciating specialty coffee. I feel like in Hong Kong, people are generally very accepting of specialty coffee as long as you take the time to educate them about how it’s different from over more commercial products. It’s a scene that’s growing slowly but the growth is definitely there.
What’s your favorite area of Hong Kong?
Probably Wah Fu Estate in Aberdeen where I grew up. I still have fond memories of the balcony and windows that looked out into the ocean.
If you could be doing anything (not related to coffee), what would it be?
Either a chef or a baker. I’ve come to really enjoy handcrafts where no two people makes things in exactly the same way.
What’s next for Return Coffee?
We’ll be moving into a larger roasting facility as we’ve outgrown our existing space and hopefully, open a second shop location in the near future.