Address: 128 – 138 Leighton Rd, Hong Kong Causeway Bay
Telephone: 3104 0075
I make no secret of the fact that I love coffee like I love air – a great meal for me often ends with a cup of latte, and sipping my morning coffee at my desk is the best part of my working day. To learn more about the art of coffee making, I signed up for the City & Guilds Barista Course at Caffe HABITU Coffee Academy and Roasting Studio.
The barista course costs $5,500, which includes the examination fees (look out for their promotions, such as 10% off if you show a receipt of spending over $100 at any Caffe HABITU branch). The duration of the course is 15+ hours, which is split into several hours of classes over three to four weekends. There are around 4-12 students at each course.
It is worth noting that the course at Coffee Academy is one of the most expensive ones in town, and other coffee academies run the same course but charge one or two thousand dollars less; the number of hours of lessons is also less than some other instutitons. However, I decided to take the course at Coffee Academy anyway for two main reasons: firstly, its location in Causeway Bay is incredibly convenient (some of the other academies are located in industrial buildings much further away from city centre), and secondly, I personally preferred to take a more compact course with fewer hours of lessons.
As soon as I stepped into the studio, I realised that this was the right place for me, as the studio was completely cosy and welcoming, and looked like a comfortable loft.
There are two parts to the City & Guilds exam: the written exam and the practical exam. We sat on sofas around the projector and went through the written exam materials together (note: both Chinese and English written exam materials are available).
The practical exam was the more challenging part, and our teacher Arol started off by introducing the different coffee machines and brewing methods to us.
We learned how to operate the espresso machine. While making espresso was nothing complicated, frothing the milk definitely involved much more skill. We had to do it well so that the froth was fine and the bubbles were small and even, and we had to watch the temperature closely so that the milk was hot enough but not over-heated, as milk would turn watery if heated above a certain temperature.
Arol demonstrated making a latte, and this intricate pattern was her work!
There can be a maximum of 12 students at each course at Coffee Academy, but usually there were only around 5 or 6 of us, so the classes were intimate and we each had sufficient time to practice on the machine.
This latte below was my first ever latte! As you can see from the photo, the froth was a bit coarse, but it was still a proud moment for me.
Latte art is not taught as part of the barista course, but Arol did demonstrate making some beautiful latte art patterns for us when we had some spare time! I took an introductory latte art workshop at Coffee Academy, but the workshop was merely introductory and was not enough for me to master the skill. You would need to take a full latte art course to learn something useful.
We had to make 7 beverages in 16 minutes in order to pass the practical exam: single espresso, single shot latte, double shot cappuccino, hot chocolate, filter coffee, English tea and banana smoothie. Timing was crucial, and so was preparation, so we ensured that we measured out all our ingredients and got all the utensils we needed before the exam.
Practicing the routine of making all 7 beverages was the key to passing the exam. I am glad that my classmates and I passed it in the end!
It is hard for me to make a direct comparison of the barista course at Coffee Academy and the ones at other institutions, as I have only taken this course once myself. Even though I preferred a more compact course myself, the few number of hours of lessons offered at Coffee Academy meant that some of the students felt rather nervous and unprepared before the exam. Our teacher Arol very kindly offered us extra 3-hour practice sessions, so everyone in our class did well in the end, but Coffee Academy should definitely consider putting more hours into the course!
Other than that, I was generally satisfied with the barista course and learned a great deal about coffees, and I am really glad that I took time out of my precious weekends to enrol at this course!