Gary Wong of Nutsy: Why We Became A Plant-based Ca...

Gary Wong of Nutsy: Why We Became A Plant-based Cafe in Hong Kong

nutsy coffee bar gary wong interview

Nutsy is no stranger to coffee lovers in Quarry Bay. Since its opening in 2015 on Tong Chong Street, the small takeaway coffee shop has been well-loved for its Aussie-style specialty coffee – and famed banana bread, if we should say so ourselves.

Eight years later, Nutsy has reopened on Hoi Kwong Street just around the corner from its original location – as a fully plant-based cafe in Hong Kong, no less – with a small and rotating menu of vegan food items to pair with their stellar cups of joe.

We caught up with Nutsy founder Gary Wong to find out more about his journey into coffee, veganism, and how he went from an IT guy “drinking only instant coffee” to the passionate, plant-based coffee connoisseur he is today.

Nutsy’s new location on Hoi Kwong Street

We started off in 2015 on Tong Chong Street… as just a little shop next to Starbucks. We stayed there for three years and business was good. At the end of the lease, the landlord decided not to let us stay there. Luckily, Blueprint invited us into their co-working space, so we continued our coffee journey from there.

We stayed at Blueprint for four years… but that was also during the pandemic when less people were coming in. Thanks to government subsidies, we were able to survive the last two years, but we still really wanted to get back onto the street. So, when this little shop came up, we thought, “Why not?”

Nutsy switched to a vegan cafe when we were in Blueprint… but it wasn’t a total switch until around July 2022. I, myself, became a vegan in the middle of 2021 and because of that, just couldn’t continue to support the dairy industry or offer dairy to my customers.

Nutsy’s mixed rice bowl

My research into veganism began… after my 2.5 year old son had a serious fall, which resulted in a deep cut on the nose between his eyes. During that time, I wanted to give him better quality food so that he could recover well, and through my research online, I stumbled upon documentaries [about veganism], like The Game Changers and Dominion.

The more I looked into it… (the animal and agriculture industry) it just didn’t make sense for me to continue eating what I was eating. As animal lovers, we shouldn’t treat farm animals any differently as dogs and cats, as they all have the right to live. So, I switched off from eating animals – just like that.

For the first month, I still ate seafood… but as I looked into the industry more (through documentaries like Seaspiracy) and how we were actually causing climate change by overfishing, I switched off from eating seafood too and became a total vegan.

My wife is still a flexitarian… she doesn’t eat any animal products at home but when she’s at work or socialising with friends, it’s her choice. I’m not going to force anyone to become a vegan but I just want to let them know what’s going on and let them think for themselves.

Nutsy’s Mac and Cheese

At Nutsy, our menu has quite a bit of protein… since people tend to think that switching to a vegan diet will mean a lack of nutrition. Our mac ‘n cheese uses nutritional yeast to get that cheesy flavour, and our mixed rice bowl is packed with different vegetables, nuts, grains and fibre. We also have a plant-based tiramisu that’s dairy- and cheese-free.

It’s not necessary to be perfectly vegan… we just need to gradually change our lifestyle and consume less meat and seafood. Our goal at Nutsy is to get as many non-vegans to come try our food and make that switch once in a while. Whether they become a vegan or not doesn’t matter.

I grew up in Perth, Australia… as my family moved there when I was 10 years old. After I graduated, I came back to Hong Kong in 2000 and had no connection with coffee back then. I was just an IT guy, drinking instant coffee!

I moved back to Australia in 2011… to chase my dream of becoming a professional photographer and coffee barista. For three years, I worked part-time as both, and that’s where I picked up my coffee skills. In 2015, I came back to Hong Kong and started Nutsy. Back then, the coffee scene in Hong Kong was not as developed and I saw an opportunity.

Life is about taking risks and you never know… That’s why our name is Nutsy – a combination of ‘nuts’ and ‘gutsy.’

Nutsy Coffee Bar, 32 Hoi Kwong St, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong, +852 9245 2747


Erica Fong is the founder and editor of Healthy HKG. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she loves running, yoga, barre and Muay Thai as much as she loves baking (and eating) chocolate chip cookies. Follow her on Instagram @wafflerica