You can't judge a book by its cover, but the Slayer makes for a sweet cover. Which is to say, having a great espresso machine doesn't mean the operator knows how to use it... but man, if it's a Slayer, they probably do. Especially out here in Hong Kong. Slayer machines are as bad-ass as they sound - hand-made in Seattle (often custom ordered) by people dedicated to coffee and engineering, built like tanks and made to last. They're known for their massive level of physical robustness (check out this video of a Slayer's heating element smashing the opposition), their bias towards manual control with the giant toggles and no programmable functions and their rugged, function-over-form design. You have to pre-order a Slayer if you want it custom made with your choice of materials (including brass, copper, gold, stone, granite, different woods, metals, colours etc.), though they have some standard options off the shelf if you can't wait. But many get them pre-ordered (see the pics below) and the results can be stunning.
Look, you can get the job done with much more humble equipment (like the super popular La Marzocco Linea) and it's maybe for that reason (plus the price, plus shipping costs) that Slayers are rarely seen across Asia. But they're gaining a following and they're worth a look - right now at these three places in Hong Kong below.
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Why50 - Sheung Wan
Barista/co-founder Yat actually used to be a barista and sales manager for %Arabica, below, who are the Hong Kong/Japan distributors for Slayer espresso machines. Yat and his partner opened up Why50 in late 2015 to go it alone. He and his business partner (a pilot, who brings coffee back from his travels) serve up coffees from the four corners of the globe, with regular appearances from a few regional ones like Bloom in Macau but with others from all over the world (they had 49th Parallel beans from Vancouver when I visited, plus a few others). It's a compact location - space is at a premium in Sheung Wan - but there's still room for a kitchen where they have brunch and light meals. They'll also do pour-overs of course for you to try the single origin coffees, but... dat Slayer.
Images from Why50's Instagram feed
Coffee Academics - Wan Chai
The Wan Chai outlet of Coffee Academics, a mini-chain of high end cafes in Hong Kong, is the only one to feature a Slayer. Coffee Academics needs no introduction to the Hong Kong specialty coffee lover. Owned by Jennifer Liu, they roast their own coffees at their flagship Causeway Bay location (actually right next door) on a 12KG Probat, and supply over 20 cafes around Hong Kong with their high grade of coffee. They do espresso drinks at their Wan Chai location on the Slayer, and do a range of signature drinks as well - 'globally inspired' with interesting mix-ins like pepper, honey and other ingredients. Of course they also do single-origin pour-overs of their best coffees, but if you go once only, get something done on the espresso machine. Ask them for a suggestion! They have excellent food options too ranging from snacks to brunch/lunch type meals.
Images from Coffee Academics Wan Chai's Instagram feed
%Arabica - Discovery Bay
Percent Arabica, which is how I pronounce %Arabica (also because it feels weird to start a sentence with '%') is a small group of high-end coffee shops that started in Kyoto (where there are two locations - also little corners of design and coffee paradise) by coffee lover Kenneth Shoji and barista/latte art legend Junichi Yamaguchi. All %Arabica’s locations roast coffee on-site using a Japanese-made Tornado King small-batch roaster (for which the company is a regional distributor), and brew the coffee as espresso drinks on the Slayer, for which %Arabica is also the regional distributor. %Arabica actually own their own farm in Kona, Hawai’i, but have many other coffee varieties available. They invest heavily into design and beauty, all their locations being serene, comfortable and just stunning to look at compared with your average neighborhood cafe. Check their website for some breathtaking photos (mostly of the Kyoto locations, but you get the idea).
Images from %Arabica Discovery Bay's Instagram feed