Thailand is one of the largest producers of coffee and has its own style of blending caffeine in its fabric. The hot and humid climate makes it hard to enjoy a cup of hot steaming Thai coffee (unless you are in malls which operate at a freezing temperature in Bangkok), and hence is replaced with the colder version called ‘Iced Coffee’, pronounced as ‘I kafe’. A lot of coffee connoisseurs I know of, have a straight no for cold brews, but Bangkok might just be the city to get you to say a Yes. The Thai cold brew is such a hit in the country that from street stalls to fancy cafes, all of them have a modified version of it.
Navigating through Bangkok in its tuk-tuks, metros, and unbearable traffic, we tasted Thai coffee at some of the most impressive local stalls and coffee boutiques. A quick walk through the city will be enough to conclude that the country has enough coffee drinking people. You can see pedestrians walking around with an iced coffee almost anytime of the day (even post 9 pm!).
Coffee chains like Starbucks and local Thai coffee chains like Amazon, True Coffee, Black Canyon are all over. But that’s not what’s special about the coffee culture in Bangkok. What’s interesting is the number of specialized Thai coffee boutiques that are spread across the capital. If you happen to be in the city, here’s a list of my favorites you can visit to get a lovely cup of ‘I kafe’ from:
1. The Local Thai Coffee Stalls
You can either love coffee from these and sip on it all day long OR just throw it straight away. We experienced both. Most of the coffee available on the streets and local stores in Thailand is a concoction of instant coffee, condensed milk, and loads of ice (look for the Nescafe board to locate them). Sometimes, the instant powder is replaced with freshly brewed coffee but that’s not always the case.
You can get lucky – one of the best Thai iced coffees I had in Bangkok was from a street shop. With some difficulty, I was able to explain to the barista that I need no sugar and only a few drops of condensed milk in my coffee. She prepared a fresh brew by adding two kinds of coffee she procured from Chiang Mai, poured it over a glass full of ice and added a few drops of condensed milk. She stirred it till the contents blended well and served it with her beautiful smile. At a price of 35 BHT, this Thai coffee was totally worth it.
With a simple and short menu, highly experienced staff, and the caffeine loaded ambience, Roots won us over instantly. They serve their cold brew straight from a tap as if it were beer. The barista adds toppings (like coco nib), sugar, ice etc based on your guidelines. And the result? It’s nothing less than a wonder – perfect aroma and the most flavourful taste. Quality of a good cafe is when its customers come back to it again and again – Roots seems to have it. The guy sitting next to us was going to move out of the city in less than an hour and the last thing he wanted to do was to come to Roots for his last cup of Roots Original. They brew their coffee for around 8 to 10 hours (almost overnight) to get the right flavour in its cold brew. I personally recommend the Roots Original Cold brew!
This tiny little boutique is located in an art gallery called Bangkok Gallery in Pathum Wan. You can see groups of people spread in and around the building sipping on the coffee from Gallery Drip. Everything at this cafe is tiny – the kitchen, the seating, the decoration, all but the coffee mugs! Here’s what you do if you happen to be at Gallery Drip – locate the store and find a seat, talk to your barista at length to select the beans (they have Single origin coffee and their special in house blend), your preferred brew along with any toppings, and just patiently wait. What you get in the end is a brew from freshly ground beans (they grind beans for each cup separately), filled with a lot of love. The place is reminiscent of a Chemistry lab with the acids and salts replaced by coffee!
Not to sound biased, but Phil was my personal favorite. Phil is located away from the malls and hustle bustle of the city, on the ground floor of a residential house. You can see coffee being roasted in the backyard. No doubt, the coffee was so fresh and aromatic. They have a concept of ‘Origin of the Day’ – the day we went there, the single origin of the day was from Kenya. This is by far one of the best coffee I have had. It was light, accurately acidic and had a great aftertaste. If you happen to be in Bangkok, this is a must go for good coffee in spite of its location away from the city centre.
This cafe is a style statement in every way – from the location to the coffee servings, everything is uber cool. The coffees sit on the barista’s desk in a rum bottle and they serve their cold brew on rocks or you can have it neat. No, it’s not Irish but they make their coffee as stylish. You can sip on this whiskey-looking drink and hop on one of the window seats to stare at the world go by. Overlooking the BTS, MTS, and MBK mall in one frame – you couldn’t ask for a better place to slow down. And the coffee, who knows how they make it – it’s just perfect.
Besides the above, try some of the other cafes that we missed out on – Carresia Coffee Roasters in Silom (they close at 6 pm), Casa Lapin in Sukhumvit, Kaizen Coffee Company in Thong Lo and Amatissimo Caffe located very close to Phil Coffee Roasters.
As for any coffee producing country, Thailand exports a lot of its coffee and consumes very little high quality coffee itself. However, these boutiques directly source the beans from Chiang Mai and other international destinations which ensure that the best is reserved for you. Though a trip to Chiang Mai might be essential to give you the full Thai coffee experience, these boutiques in Bangkok offer a perfect peek into a nation that obsesses over its coffee. Who would’ve thought that Thailand of all places is home to some of the best cafes in the world.
Note: The original version of the article was written by us for Travel Wire Asia. Please visit their website here to read the same.