What's a roaster doing on a major thoroughfare of Hong Kong's Mid-levels area? It raises the question of whether the roasting market has approached saturation, if it hasn't already. Everyone has a boutique roaster or in-house roasting. Cafes are increasingly having to do more to differentiate themselves, and there aren't too many more ideas out there.
Anyway, as a consumer, the more the merrier. Filters Lane is a relative newcomer to the still-emerging Hong Kong Coffee Scene, with a roaster and retail presence on Caine Road amidst the residential high-rises. It opened early in 2014 and serves usual the trifecta of espresso drinks, brews and teas. There are also snacks (cakes, chocolate) and some breakfast food on offer too.
What you can't ignore about Filters Lane is the on-site roasting. I at first thought this to be a marketing gimmick ("who got an old roaster, painted it black and put it in the window? ...Cool."), but during my visit I was surprised to see someone hand-grading green beans at the counter! So it really happens. You can see the roaster being operated from out the front.
Knowledge of the coffee itself is unfortunately not conveyed so well by the staff (despite the enthusiasm). There are usually a few kinds on offer from the menu, and while one coffee may be described as 'Mandehling', not much more will be offered about the farm, the lot, the way in which it was grown, etc. It may have been the mild language barrier, or the fact that I'm a total stranger, but I didn't get that feeling of "connection from the customer all the way to the farm".
I tried a Panama coffee (nothing more known about it other than it was meant to be fruity) brewed as a v60 pourover. It was pleasantly aromatic and floral, but I can't say it was fruity. It was enjoyable though. I appreciated the coffee served in the (custom?) round glass on the wooden board. Everything served on a wooden board is delicious. It contrasted nicely with the pedestrian presentation I have seen from a number of larger coffee shops, who unceremoniously deliver you a cup and charge you north of US$6.
Filters lane has a quiet, relaxed ambience for a major thoroughfare, with wood and other natural materials. It's somewhat dark inside. At the time of day I was there, 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, it was fairly quiet and would be suitable for an extended session either with a friend or reading alone (or maybe with a laptop).
Filters Lane is just west of the escalators at 111 Caine Road. They're open 10am to 7pm daily (even on Sundays!). I'll definitely get back there.