If you’ve recently started noticing well-heeled hipsters flocking to the TST Star Ferry Pier, follow their lead and you will probably end up at a brightly lit, contemporary coffee counter tucked in the corner of the first floor. There’s only a ‘%’ sign where shop names are normally proclaimed, but join the queue and order a coffee anyway – you won’t regret it.

Hong Kong, meet % Arabica. Previously only available in Discovery Bay (along with Kyoto, Kuwait and the UAE), the under-the-radar connoisseur favourite has finally opened its doors at a (relatively) central location (if the name sounds familiar, you may recall its original Discovery Bay outlet featuring in our cult guide to The Best Coffee Shops in Hong Kong).

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Founder Kenneth Shoji opened his first % Arabica shop in Discovery Bay back in 2013. The company’s full name is Arabica Coffee Roaster & Farm as they own a coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii. In fact, the ‘%’ logo is inspired by a pared-down rendering of how coffee cherries look on the branch. % Arabica shops (designed by Japanese architect Masaki Kato) display the same minimalist Japanese design aesthetic – simple and timeless. Beans are sourced both from their Hawaii farm as well as countries like Brazil, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Japan and roasted close to sale – in Hong Kong, the beans are roasted at the Discovery Bay outlet.

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There was a typhoon brewing on the day of % Arabica’s grand opening, but this didn’t deter the sizeable crowd at the shop. Like the other % Arabica outlets, this one is all clean lines, natural light and sand-coloured wood, with the shiny white custom-designed Slayer Espresso machine (known in coffee circles for its sleek yet striking design and technical prowess) taking centre stage.

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The walls are adorned with glass shelves displaying paper bags of % Arabica coffee beans as well as a metallic map of the world. The latter is a design constant across all shops, which represents the company’s vision to expand globally and allow their young baristas to ‘see the world through coffee’. A selection of % Arabica merchandise is also available for purchase (e.g., white umbrellas and earthy canvas satchels). The TST Star Ferry outlet is more of a grab-and-go place, although there’s a single wooden bench within the shop and a few standing tables outside if you need somewhere to linger.

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I’d worked up a sweat after my walk from the TST MTR station, so I opted for an iced latte ($45 for tall size) – yes, I’m no coffee snob and it’s the summer after all. The shop doesn’t offer soy milk (often regarded as a travesty by many coffee purists), but I decided to brave my lactose intolerance.

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My taste buds were duly rewarded. The latte was gloriously smooth and cold, with a subtle nutty undertone. There was just a light hint of bitterness, which was balanced by the creaminess of the milk.

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For those of you who prefer your latte hot, you (and your ‘grammers) will be pleased to know that % Arabica’s global head barista, Junichi Yamaguchi, is also a world latte art champion, so their latte art comes courtesy of a certain pedigree.

While % Arabica’s newest outlet opened after our list of 5 Coffee Shops and Cafés in Kowloon to Try this Summer 2017 was published, we’re certain it will be a regular fixture on future top coffee lists as well as one new reason to take the Star Ferry.

Shop KP–41, 1/F, TST Star Ferry pier (direction to Central)

This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation.

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