Coffee Culture in Hong Kong with Chris Lam

WHAT WE LEARNT ABOUT COFFEE CULTURE WITH CHRIS LAM

interview by Jack Law and Iris Pan

 

Coffee has long been part of modern life and modern culture.  But how we enjoy our coffee is also a reflection of the culture and society that you’re in.  Some like to take their time, sit, relax, socailise.  For others, it is an essential daily stimulus that we need to start our day – we need our quick fix now, and on the go!

In Hong Kong the demand and competition for coffee can evidently be seen as Starbucks and Pacific Coffee compete for prime real estate.

However, there has also been a rise in boutique coffee shops, who’s passion for coffee and desire to have an impact on society is deeply integrated into their business.  Christ Lam is one such owner.  TC sat with him to learn more about his vision, his passion for coffe, and his cafe Revol.

 

Please briefly introduce yourself.

My name is Chris Lam and I was born in Hong Kong. I like fencing, soccer and anything to
do with coffee. I worked as a market analyst for 2 years in Hong Kong before I decided to
go to Korea for a working holiday. Now I own my own cafe – CAFE REVOL.

What made you decide to go abroad for a working-holiday?

I have always had a passion for coffee. My mother’s hobby in making cakes had a big influence on my growing up. Ever since then I dreamt of having my own café.

The reason why I went to Korea was because the local coffee culture is very similar to the European coffee culture which is more than the South East Asian countries. I wanted to learn about coffee in an environment where it already has a long history. I wanted to put all my energy and focus on becoming a professional barista. Also, most importantly to learn the skills of managing a Café.

What was it like when you first arrived Korea?

It was very lonely; communication was my biggest barrier that I had to overcome. I wasn’t
fluent in Korean and the local English proficiency wasn’t great. It was so difficult for me to
communicate to my customers so I had no choice but to clean dishes when I first started.

How did you get through the cultural differences?

I started to overcome this problem by practicing and immersing myself within their culture; reading and socialising with my colleagues helped tremendously. Time and patience is always a good solution.

Any interesting experience you would like to share with us?

I used to think that it was the same person coming back for more coffee every other hour because the café was in an area full of plastic surgery clinics. Everyone who came into the shop most of the time had a similar face. Everyone looked alike. There was also a trend – you would see lots of people having surgery done in a specific part of their body – all
around the same time.

Can you tell us your working experience in Hong Kong as a Barista?

Hong Kongers are always busy and therefore always in a hurry. So people are very stressed. Customers demands are very high and therefore baristas need to be very skilled and an efficiently run café.

Do you think there is a big cultural difference between Hong Kong and Korea? (e.g working hours and lifestyle)?

 

Most Hong Kong people work only for the money. There is no pride in their work. In Korea the colleagues I work with love their work.

Most Hong Kong people work only for the money. There is no pride in their work. In Korea the colleagues I work with love their work. They have goals, dreams and vision towards what serving coffee can lead them to. They motivated me as there was a high level of energy and pride shared among us.

So, what is important to you – enjoying life or enjoying work?

Enjoying life is more important for me. I think we should keep a balance between earning
and living. Find a job where your passion is and you can earn money at the same time. I
think a good balance of work and life is really very important. We do not want to be like a
working machine.

I think a good balance of work and life is really very important. We do not want to be like a
working machine.

Having worked between Korea and Hong Kong for several years and you now own your own café, can you tell us what is your concept and plans for the future of your café?

REVOL comes from the word “revaluation” – I want to change the fast food culture in Hong
Kong. A café is not a restaurant. It’s a place for people to relax and spend time with friends
or family or just being by yourself.

REVOL also comes from the word “Revolt”, which means breaking the rules and chasing
your dreams. I hope this word REVOL will be the inspiration and motivation for customers
who come to my café.

What coffee would you chose to describe HK and Korea?

For Hong Kong I would choose expresso ristretto, which is a very strong , concentrated and restricted espresso. it is the first ¾-ounce of espresso in an extraction, which many believe is the absolute perfect espresso (It’s less bitter than espresso).

In Korea – I would choose Hangover Cure, a cafe Americano with honey and cinnamon.
Koreans loves to drink alcohol but also have a good work/life balance, so they would savour some sweet moments from their work life to continue chasing their dreams they are passionate about.

 

You can find Cafe Revol at:
Shop No.5, G/F, Fortune Terrace, 4-16 Tak Shing Street, Jordan, Kowloon
Hong Kong

or follow them on their facebook page

 

 

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