Milk tea from cha chaan teng was once Hong Kong's favourite drink, but these days, coffee is gaining in popularity, says May Man, barista course director at Coffee Lover.
"Local coffee culture is booming, with a coffee shop or a cafe around every corner of the street," she says. "[Coffee] has become part of the culture. People do not only just love to drink coffee, they see the coffee shop as a place to meet friends and chill out... The development of latte art has definitely added spice to the coffee industry as well."
Many young people are attracted to becoming a barista, and several relevant courses are on offer.
"The best are ones that are recognised by City & Guilds, a vocational awards body based in Britain. Recognised certificate of coffee and barista courses are offered by private companies like Coffee Lover, the YMCA and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions," says Man, adding that students learn the background of coffee culture and how to taste and prepare the popular beverage.
The course is usually part-time and takes two months to complete. The fee is around HK$6,000. Applicants with an education level of Form Three or above are eligible.
With the coffee industry booming, finding a job as a barista is not difficult, but one has to be patient and willing to learn in order to move up. "A new barista's starting salary is around HK$8,000 to HK$9,000. A barista usually starts off with cleaning tasks and serving customers," Man adds.
After six months, they move to working behind the counter as an assistant. Through on-the-job training, they develop skills in preparing coffee.
A barista usually works eight hours a day over two to three shifts. Peak hours are from 6pm to midnight.
"Knowing various recipes is not enough. The knowledge in mixing and matching coffee is endless," says Man.
In the big chain stores, a barista can move up to become a supervisor, and then a shop manager. Many baristas open their own businesses after having had a few years of experience as an employee.
"I advise people who want to develop a career in coffee [trade] to be willing to learn. Knowledge takes time to develop," Man adds.