PLACEText: Kat Lo

The first time we went, my friend couldn’t decide between iced chocolate and white chocolate coffee. The man taking our order told him to go the path of white chocolate, and then imitated shaking a can of liquid. “Cold coffee tastes better when it’s shaken,” he explained. And it did. Where in Hong Kong can you find furiously hand-blended coffee, a most scrumptious avocado bagel, homemade apple crumble, all day breakfast, a glass of Stonehaven Shiraz 2004, the most stylish bathroom in Hong Kong, authentic wooden school desks with flip-open tops, and menus printed on those blue books they gave you back in school?

We just can’t keep away from Afterschool Cafe, a hidden gem in Hong Kongs’s Causeway Bay district. Neither can dozens of loyal friends and customers. Afterschool draws such a devoted base because it’s neither 100% cafe nor 100% workplace. Pokit Poon, the founder and visionary behind Afterschool, the man who shook the coffee that night, talks about how people come in the middle of the night, how some of them come alone to be sad, and how it makes him happy that they come like this.

Pokit explains how he named it: “When one graduates from school, and enters the world of work, this is the most energetic dream, the most beautiful moment. Around me, I can see how many people around me have lost this moment. I want my friends to hold onto this energy in their lives.” He deliberately avoids media exposure or even a sign outside, because he wants to build a sense of connection among its visitors.

Afterschool is run by Pokit and a cluster of part-time staff. “I do it with a balance of instinct and practicality,” he says. The cafe is truly a union of art and function, a maximization of space. The small space holds a large seating area, an antique piano, a bar, a professionally equipped kitchen, that sublime bathroom, and a private design studio, where Pokit works during the day. It is even bigger and more functional than this. Afterschool recently became one of ART IT‘s only Hong Kong distributors. He respects the concept behind this Japanese magazine about new art in Asia, and hopes that his customers will benefit from reading about what’s happening in nearby cities. “The cafe is a space to share.”

While learning about design trends, he’s also learned about managing a food and beverage business. While it is easy to open a cafe in Hong Kong, it is hard to maintain. A lot of hard work goes into making things seem clean and fine by the time the first customers of the day roll in. Pokit sees it as a constant balance between the practical and art-related concept and goals. It’s difficult to do both at once, but even harder to compromise one for the other. He is first looking to make the practical operation smooth, and then focus more on the real work that will then be possible.

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