Scottie Callaghan in the fine print

After making a name for himself at home, Scottie Callaghan has brought the Australian café model to Hong Kong, where he has discovered a need for customer service in an emerging specialty coffee scene.
Scottie Callaghan

While working in Hong Kong for a Chinese start-up named Holly Brown, Australian coffee professional Scottie Callaghan noticed a lack of cafés in the area offering the personalised service he was familiar with.

“There was a gap in the market where there was no café offering an Australian espresso bar experience: a friendly barista, ready and prepared to make you a good cup of coffee and do so efficiently, and remember your name – all the little customer service things that are expected in Australia,” Scottie tells BeanScene.

“If you go to the same café in Australia every day for five days you’d expect them to start remembering your order, and for the most part that doesn’t happen in Hong Kong.”

Scottie believing there was room for an Australian style café in Hong Kong’s SoHo district, and in 2014, left Holly Brown to open Fineprint, a specialty coffee shop/winebar.

Another Australian element Scottie has implemented at Fineprint is the use of Cafetto products. Scottie chose the cleaning agent due to its familiarity and reliability.

“It’s a product I know, and it’s a good product. I don’t think I would use any other cleaning agent. Pretty much every café and roastery I’ve ever worked at always used [Managing Director Chris Short’s] products,’ he says.

Much like the personalised service Scottie receives from Cafetto, Fineprint’s friendly service has helped it establish a group of regular customers Scottie likens to the characters of the 90s sitcom Cheers. 

“It’s a café with a little community of loyal regulars who know our staff and each other,” he says. “It’s quite usual for some of our regulars to turn up on a Saturday morning at 8am and still be there at 10am, because they keep running into their friends, and sit down to have another coffee and a chat.”

While Australian expats make up a large part of the customer base, Scottie sees customers from a spectrum of backgrounds frequent the café.

Scottie Callaghan has introduced an Australian espresso bar experience to Hong Kong.

“About half of our customers are Australian, and we also have regulars who are from many different countries, Ireland, America, Britain, Israel, Canada, Russia, New Zealand, and South Africa to name a few,” Scottie says.

“Only about 10 per cent of our business would be Hong Kong locals, though the number is growing.”

Scottie attributes the growing number of local customers to making the café accessible to Hong Kong’s non-English speaking community.

“They learn that we’ve got good staff who speak fluent Cantonese, so they know they have someone they can speak to, and I’ve learnt a lot of Cantonese too,” he says.

At night, Fineprint shifts its focus from specialty coffee to a carefully cultivated selection of wine. Scottie, who had no experience in the liquor industry before opening Fineprint, says the basic tenents of the wine business are the same as coffee.

“People like a quality product served by people who are friendly and attentive. It’s just good customer service. Customers like to go somewhere where they are confident the employees know what they’re doing and talking about,” he says.

The main difference Scottie has discovered between the two fields is the level of organisation required.

“The more difficult side of running a bar is the portion control, stock, costs, and inventory management,” he says. “If you own a specialty coffee shop, like a little espresso bar in Australia, you need milk, beans, and some basic tools. With a bar you have an inventory management list and stock is substantially higher.”

Scottie’s long history with coffee began more than 25 years ago when he began working as a barista for The Coffee Club in Hornsby, New South Wales. After bouncing around a few other cafés in Sydney, he settled at Toby’s Estate Coffee in Woolloomooloo in the early 2000s.

“Back in the day, Toby’s Estate was one of the only, and one of the better, specialty coffee roastery/café boutiques,” Scottie says.

“That’s where I started to learn to roast from Dean Morgan, a roaster there at the time. I would come in on my days off to sit and watch him roast, and then pick his brains.”

Scott Callaghan
The name Fine Print highlights the café’s attention to detail.

In 2006, while working at Danes Gourmet Coffee, Scottie was offered the opportunity to compete in the World Latte Art Championship in Berne, Switzerland with one month’s notice.

“We hadn’t run an Australian Latte Art Championship before, and at the time, a national association body could nominate someone to compete,” Scottie says. “I quit my job – my boss was very kind to let me resign effective immediately – so I could practice for the four weeks before going to Switzerland.”

Scottie went on to win the championship, one of many titles he would go on to claim. After returning to Australia, Scottie began working at Dean Morgan’s roastery, Morgan’s Coffee, which he represented when he won the Australian Specialty Coffee Association Australian Barista Championship in 2007.

In 2010, Scottie again won the Australian Barista Championship, and travelled to London where he placed third in the World Barista Championship. Scottie believes that coffee competitions have since grown to better reflect the work baristas actually do in cafés.

“[Coffee Championships are] a totally different competition in so many ways. A lot of the old rules used to restrict baristas and what they wanted to do,” he says.

“The way that changed was baristas competing in championships and doing things differently, challenging the competition and the status quo. Some of those baristas actually went on to win too.”

Though no longer interested in competing himself, Scottie would love to see his employees follow in his footsteps.

“One of my baristas wants to compete, so I’d like to make that happen,” he says.

Learn about more baristas Cafetto supports:
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André Eiermann’s Swiss success
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Scottie says attending coffee competitions in Hong Kong has shown him the growth of the city’s specialty coffee community, with more than 100 people in attendance.

“When I first moved here in 2013, there was maybe two or three specialty coffee places. Now there must be at least 30, and most of them make really good coffee,” Scottie says.

Although the coffee culture is growing and Hong Kong has a large population, Scottie says it’s still difficult for new businesses to enter the market.

“Quite a few new coffee shops in the area just open and close,” he says. “The main reason is that the people who drink specialty coffee in Hong Kong are expats. The other people who drink specialty coffee are the wealthier Chinese people, who have travelled and experienced Western-style café culture. There’s probably another five million people in Hong Kong who who only eat western style food or drink on very rare occasions.”

This article appears in FULL in the February 2019 edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.

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