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The Taste of Thai Coffee

The Rise of Coffee Culture in Thailand: From Beans to Brews (2024)

Coffee was never a part of Thailand’s history, but if you are a true coffee enthusiast, you may find your way into this nation. Since the late 1900s, Thailand has seen significant growth in its coffee industry. Currently, Thailand is one of the leading coffee exporters in the world and also the nation with blooming coffee tourism.

But was coffee truly a cultural thing in Thailand forever? Well No. Even until the 1970s, Thailand was serving foreign instant coffee brands like Nescafe and others. It is only a few decades of cultivation and ever since then, people are all over in love with Thai Coffee.

History of Coffee Culture in Thailand

Thailand’s coffee heritage dates back to the early 1990s King Rama V aimed to diversify the agricultural produce in the nation. Coffee was first cultivated in Thailand’s northern regions, particularly in the hills of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces.

However, until 5 to 6 decades, Coffee plantations remained cold and it was only during the late 1970s when it gained more prominence. It was when King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the initiator of Thai Royal Projects, encouraged local tribes in the northern regions to shift from opium cultivation to coffee plantations. The initiative aimed not only towards a new crop but also for improving the local (tribal) economic conditions.

Later in the 1990s, the northern Thailand regions, especially the higher altitude areas, saw a boom in coffee plantations. Coffee Arabica became the focus of cultivation, and the combination of suitable climate, elevation, and soil conditions in these regions contributed to its success. Soon enough, Thai coffee gained global popularity.

Presently, speciality coffee shops are quite popular in the streets of Thailand, and the taste is loved by both locals and tourists.

The Taste of Thai Coffee

The taste of Thai coffee can vary depending on the region where it’s grown, the roast level, and the brewing method. Thailand commonly cultivates Arabica coffee beans that have a smoother and more nuanced flavour (floral or fruity notes) compared to Robusta beans. The Thai Arabica coffee has a medium body, a well-balanced flavour profile, some hints of floral tones, citrus, and mild acidity. The Taste of Thai Coffee

Since many coffee plantations in Thailand are located at high altitudes, the region may have different influence over the taste. High-altitude cultivation means slower bean maturation that results in enhancing the development of flavours. Not only the cultivating but even the processing methods can impact the taste of Thai coffee. The processing typically involves Wet processing, where the coffee cherry’s pulp is removed before drying the beans, resulting in cleaner and brighter flavours.

Besides that, the distinct method of preparation also influences the taste of Thai coffee. In the local street stall, they brew Thai coffee using a sock-like cloth filter along with sweetened milk.

Traditionally, this coffee is also known as Kafae Boran or Ancient Coffee; however, due to its rich and sweet taste, it is very unique for Western flavours. In recent years, different brewing methods, including espresso to pour-over and more, have influenced the taste of Thai coffee.

Coffee Growing Regions and Coffee Chains in Thailand

The major coffee cultivation happens in the northern hilly areas of Thailand. Some of the common regions among them include:

1. Chiang Mai:

Also known as the coffee capital of Thailand, the historical city of Chiang Mai is a haven for coffee enthusiasts. It is where the actual Thai Coffee cultivation began.

2. Doi Chang:

Popular as a village in the Golden Triangle region, Doi Chang is one of the major coffee production areas in Thailand. The village is home to the renowned Doi Chaang Coffee House, which attracts enthusiasts from all across the country.

3. Doi Tung:

The coffee plantation here was initiated in 1988 by Princess Mother and offered a unique coffee experience for travellers.

4. Kanchanaburi:

Kanchanaburi is located in the western parts of Thailand, boasting unspoiled, mountainous terrain. The location is perfect for ideal coffee cultivation.

5. Chumphon:

Chumphon is located in the southern parts of Thailand and is known for its robusta coffee trees. Gaining fame as a coffee district with its scenic landscapes, Chumphon is an ideal landscape for delicious coffee, plantation tours, and breathtaking views.

Continuing with Thailand’s Popular Coffee Chains

1. Amazon:

Featuring accessibility for all through its competitive pricing, Amazon emerged as the biggest coffee brand in Thailand. Amazon Coffee has extended its reach by collaborating with PTT,

2. Coffee World:

Coffee World is a popular chain in Thailand known for its quality beverages and international appeal.

3. Black Canyon:

Black Canyon is a well-established coffee chain in Thailand, gaining attention for many years now.

4. Roots Coffee:

Unlike traditional Thai Coffee, Roots Coffee is a Western-style brew made exclusively from beans grown in Thailand.

5. Brave Roaster:

Another popular coffee chain in Thailand, Brave Roaster, offers a diverse selection of beans from both Thailand and other countries.

Best Coffee Shops in Thailand

1. Transit Number 8 Cafe

Transit Number 8 Café, although it is simple and basic, the coffee here is truly taking the nation by storm. Brews at this chic new cafe in Chiang Mai come from the owner’s own farm. Visitors can even roast their own beans.

2. Reddoorz The Readers cafe and rooms

The Readers café in Pattaya is where you can sip, read, and relax. They have a huge spread of coffee, tea, and other drinks, along with a range of snack and meal options. The café is also filled with all kinds of books, from modern hits to old classics.

3. Akha Ama Coffee

Another classic in Chiang Mai, Akha Ama Coffee, was founded by Lee Ayu. The coffee café was initially built to support the hilly tribes and thus is named after the ‘Akha Tribe’. Started as a small joint with a home-style espresso machine, they now produce over 35 tons of coffee annually and roast their own beans.

4. Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roa

This tiny coffee shop in Thailand is quite famous amongst locals for its variety of flavours. It is, in fact, one of the best coffee shops in Bangkok. The owners offer different options focusing on the detail, depth, taste, body, and smell of the brew.

5. Bake ‘n’ Brew

Bake ‘n’ Brew in Pattaya isn’t just a well-established coffee shop but also a top-notch bakery. Although this premier coffee shop is a little bit out of the way, you will find some of the best coffees here, particularly hot brews. It is also an excellent breakfast spot serving sandwiches, subs, paninis, pasta and a lot of Thai food.

Enjoy your Coffee in Thailand.

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