As a past British colony, Hong Kong has had its fill of biscuits. Americans know biscuits as flaky light, often buttery pieces of baked dough. The British have hoodwinked the Hong Kong food scene into believing delicious American biscuits are actually scones, and that real biscuits are hard, crackerlike shortbread which can be savory or sweet.
For nearly a century, Hong Kong’s baked goods have been dominated by British biscuits, but since the Handover, the British influence has waned and as a consequence, American cookies are no longer in the British biscuit’s shadow.
Cookies are delighting Hong Kongers, and even reputable bakeries such as Jenny’s Bakery and Glory Bakery, call their traditional sweetbreads, cookies.
With this great change in Hong Kong’s baked goods, a bakery has come from overseas, not a Western country, but Taiwan, to dominate the cookie market.
And yes, we are talking about Cookie Department.
Of course, the founder of one the most suddenly prominent bakery in Hong Kong is from New York City in the United States. The Big Apple is known for being the epicenter of food trends as cupcakes, doughnuts, gold-leaf cakes and the invention of the Cronut all became food trends that have since, traveled the world.
Will Fang, the creator and managing director of Cookie Department, always had a love for decadent desserts and felt spoiled for baked good options in the states – his home country, so when he moved to Hong Kong, he began to long for the decadent style of American desserts.
In an interview with Prestige Hong Kong, he said, “After college, I moved to New York to start my fashion career with Ralph Lauren, and quickly realized New York had some of best dessert shops and famous bakeries in the world. So ever since I moved to Hong Kong (over 10 years ago now), I’ve found it almost impossible to find the same cookies, cakes and treats I grew up with.”
With a background in fashion, Fang worked for Ralph Lauren Corp. in Hong Kong and Apple Inc. And it is during this time that he emerged himself in Hong Kong food culture and saw that the city was trapped in colonial cuisine and was also behind in the food trends, the trends that had made New York’s food scene so dynamic.
With his heart not set in the corporate life, he decided to embark on entrepreneurship. This new course brought Fang to Taiwan, where he used his fashion brand knowledge to open Department (dpt), a stylish lifestyle clothing and accessory retail store.
In the middle of the store was a courtyard where there was a coffee shop called Coffee Department which sold homemade decadent cookies to go along with premium coffees. Scores of people began filling into the courtyard, not for the coffee, but for cookies.
After a split with his business partners, Fang decided to focus his attention on the one product that could not stay on the shelves and took it back to Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, Cookie Department has exploded on social media, with its growth propelled by posts from influencers tagging the mouth-watering treats. Every day, more and more people search for the cookies which now include fun flavors such as double choc chip, white chocolate macadamia, traditional chocolate chip, a rich red velvet and a very gooey peanut butter chip.
Sometimes there are special limited edition flavors like red velvet matcha ganache cookie and the peanut butter and jelly cookie. When asked about the creation of the right recipe for the slight twists in these classic recipes, Fang said, “I had been developing the recipes for the better part of a decade as my search for the perfect cookie in Hong Kong kept falling short. I decided to start baking my own and experimenting with all the different variations using inspiration from my favorite childhood bakeries and the cookies I used to have regularly in New York.”
Cookie Department has two brick and mortar locations in Lee Gardens of Causeway Bay and Basehall, the new millennial focused foodcourt in Central.
Just like Jenny’s cookies, there are now quite a few resellers of Cookie Department being spotted around town. Some places are legitimate pop-ups under the official name of Cookie Department like the pop-up at Cafe Grey in the Upper House which ran all this summer of 2020. The cookies are also available for delivery through food delivery app, Foodpanda.
At a general cost of HK$35 (US$4.5) to HK$40 (US$5.2), the sizable cookies – all 130 grams – are definitely a great value for a gluttonous night on the couch with a tall glass of milk and Netflix.
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