GBA Lifestyle News
City Living Section
By Gayatri Bhaumik | October 28th, 2019

Born in Sweden, just outside Stockholm, Alexis Holm built a career in retail and design, all while learning about the art of Fika, the Swedish coffee break. In 2009, he moved to Hong Kong and soon recreated his retail and desgin career in the city with the squarestreet brand. Now, Holm is blending his passion for retail, design and Fika with the opening of KAFFE, a chic Swedish café tucked into the squarestreet space in Sheung Wan.

Your background is in fashion and design. Why make the move to a café?

It’s not that much of a stretch. After all, coffee is an important part of any designer’s arsenal when tackling new projects or hectic deadlines. Besides, the world [of retail] has changed and if you don’t want people to buy with one click on their phones or straight off Instagram, you’d better be offering something more than just product.

How does a Swedish café differ from other cafes around the world?

A truly Swedish café will offer classic Swedish Fika, and that is something no other café in the world can do. Technically speaking, our café differs from others (at least in Hong Kong) by being the only café serving beans roasted in Sweden, and pastries baked according to traditional recipes by a Swedish baker. It’s quite unbeatable, really!

What exactly is ‘Fika?’

Fika is both a noun and a verb. You can Fika, but you can also have a Fika. It’s confusing. The act and art of Fika differs from person to person in Sweden. But in general, it’s a prolonged coffee break with a friend. A moment of relaxation, gossip, and enjoyment. Fika does not include a laptop or an espresso, hastily downed. Fika is, above all, a pause from the daily grind, which is why it’s also called “Fika paus”. So when you come to KAFFE, prepare to relax a little.

kaffe coffee

What’s special about the coffee at KAFFE?

KAFFE uses a special natural mutation of the Bourbon variety of coffee beans, called Caturra, for our espresso coffee. The particular one we are using at the moment comes from Costa Rica, but our roasting partner, Koppi, in the south of Sweden, changes the type slightly every month, to keep everyone guessing.

It is a single origin, medium roasted coffee bean that produces a more bean-specific and fruity cup that sets it apart from most other cafes in Hong Kong who prefer darker blends and harder roasting.

Our coffee tastes best on its own, in my opinion, as espresso or long black. It has low bitterness, a short aftertaste, and delightful fruit and acidity. With milk, it becomes nice and smooth but still lets its character shine through, especially in our signature short latte that is presented in vintage Swedish porcelain cups.

No Swedish cafe offering truly classic “Fika” would dream of only serving espresso coffee, however. The true staple of Swedish coffee culture is the home brewer and a pot of regular brewed coffee. In Hong Kong, brewed coffee is something fancy, but in Sweden, it’s the regular stuff, the lifeblood of many workplaces. We use an imported dark roast from Swedish brand Zoega that carries chocolate and nutty notes to complement the sweetness of our cardamom buns perfectly.

What are the must-try Swedish pastries at KAFFE?

Our Cardamom Bun, for sure. I mean, they’re all good, but if you’ve only got room for one, then definitely the Cardamom Bun.

kaffe cardamom buns

What’s special about the way the pastries are made at KAFFE?

They are made in small batches by a single Swedish baker, according to recipes handed down from generation to generation, with absolutely no fillers, preservatives or processed ingredients. They’re just 100% goodness and Swedishness.

How does KAFFE fit into the accessories and lifestyle boutique SquareStreet, where it’s located?

Well, it fits in nicely, in the window. The boutique itself has had to give way to the café since it’s just so much better to have retail in a café than coffee in a retail shop. We’re still fine-tuning our offerings to better pair the café and the boutique, but so far so good.

KAFFE also has a sustainability angle. Why is this important?

It’s 2019. Keeping your use of single plastics to a minimum should feel about as natural as brushing your teeth. I would like to do more, though, and as we develop the café, I’m sure we’ll find new ways to increase our sustainability.

Dishin’ the Dirt profile.