Interview #97

Coffee Dialogue: Behind the Scenes of PMQ Coffee Agenda

PMQ Coffee Agenda

Written by Michael Lui
Photos by PMQ Coffee Agenda

PMQ Coffee Agenda(CA)is celebrating its 4th year in 2022. As a platform to promote the spirit of coffee, many of them have contributed behind the scenes to help contribute the coffee scene in Hong Kong. This year, we would like to pay tributes to coffee artisans. We have invited Iris Chow, Director (Branding and Programmes Development) at PMQ, together with Chester Tam who has been working in different position, and coffee championship Bosco Tai to share their experiences of participating CA over the years, and talk about future trends and curatorial concept of this year.

1/ What is your role in PMQ Coffee Agenda? How has CA changed over the years?

Iris:We organized the first CA in 2018, which is the first large-scale coffee project in Hong Kong for the public. There are always objections to new attempts: at first, we were afraid of not getting enough participants and no coffee shop was willing to come for the holiday……Turned out we have actually spent a year and half to prepare for the first edition, getting to know the coffee industry and coffee lovers. Fortunately, we have been working with Coffeederhk to solve and sort out various issues. Everyone was overjoyed in the first CA!

During the whole process, we fIgured out that the spirit of the coffee industry is actually the same as design. People working in both industries are all craftsmen — they all work with enthusiasm, striving to innovate and try; They are supportive to one another, being united to promote Hong Kong coffee. The craftsmanship has encouraged and inspired us to devote ourselves to the PMQ Coffee Agenda. Over the years, we have been in close communication with the industry.

In addition to the CA Festival, starting from 2019, we have also co-organized various coffee competitions with the Hong Kong Specialty Coffee Association to support Hong Kong players in participating in the World Championships. Meanwhile we kept pace with the times and the trend. For instance,we noticed that many people have been taking part in the coffee roasting recently. This year, we have an event called "Open Call for Coffee Roasters", hoping to introduce to the public the craftsmen who keep making good coffee all these years.

Chester:I started participating in the second edition of CA. All started from setting up a booth and organizing a hand-brewed coffee workshop. Back then, I was the competition judge. Last year, I was invited to be the consultant, and helped co-organizing coffee experience campaign that touched upon coffee and life. In my opinion, CA has been promoting the coffee industry. The only change is that the entire ecosystem is more structured and systematic. The whole industry can come together and continue to grow.

Bosco:I joined as a booth owner 2 years ago and I taught at hand drip coffee workshops. In 2019, I won the Hong Kong Barista Championship and after two years, I participated in CA in the name of my own brand, hoping to see the public's reaction. At this year's CA, I am the contest consultant and judge. Personally, PMQ Coffee Agenda is getting more and more sophisticated with local characteristics. It has been actively promoting small shops and independent barista. Apart from that, it also facilitates the growth of the industry, making the whole event much more interesting.

2/ What did you get from it?

Chester: I am happy to move forward and go beyond the boundaries. It is rare to have a platform where people in the coffee industry can play their part, so I can put into practice what I usually think and do.

Iris: I have met many people in the coffee industry who are creative, enthusiastic, willing to experiment with people from different sectors, and they have an immortal spirit of Hong Kong people who constantly look for changes and try. This kind of value and motivation motivates me to curate other projects as well.

Bosco:One of the benefits is that you can experiment, promote your own brand, and understand the tastes of the public. CA is a great networking.

3/The most memorable moment in PMQ Coffee Agenda?

Bosco:What impressed me the most is that instead of winning the competition myself, there is an organization willing to lend the venue and find sponsors to support people from the coffee industry. Coffee itself is not a leading industry in Hong Kong. It’s out of my expectation that an organization can support it with action.

Chester: The most unforgettable moment is the coffee experience workshop that I did last year. We talked about coffee and different stages of life. That was indeed a very abstract concept at first. From brainstorming to execution, our colleagues and teams came to share and communicate with the participants. Everyone was whole-heartedly devoted to it, which moved me deeply as well.

Iris: There are many unforgettable things. There have been many ups and downs in the past few years, but it is rare to meet a group of good partners who fight side by side.

We did a live streaming in 2020, for instance. We started to think big and create new ideas, such as the connection between coffee farmer Mike and Gary of UCR to explore more possibilities of Hong Kong coffee beans, and Joe from Nutmad to demonstrate how coffee paired with local ingredients, etc., all the experiments at that time served as the event's inspiration for CA later.

4/ What is your expectation for PMQ Coffee Agenda?

Chester:I hope that PMQ Coffee Agenda can play a role of connection, connecting coffee with design, or people in other fields, and promote it to different levels. More and more people can understand the spirit of coffee.

Iris:People are expecting more and more from us, and we get more responsibilities as time goes by. To me, the most important thing is to stick to the ground. I would like to continue to communicate closely with the industry to understand the trend of the industry. At the same time, while balancing the expectations of the public, I also explore more and more coffee experiences, so that different stakeholders can attain more interaction.

Bosco:I wish they could continue to support the competition! Their competition venues and facilities are very good, apart from having a kitchen for participants to prepare, they can also allow the participants to concentrate on the competition, which helps alleviate a lot of pressure.

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