Previously, the thought of Thai coffee left images of an older coffee cart owner, making a half-coffee, half-condensed milk concoction that will keep you going the entire day on sugar content alone.
But a new wave of skilled baristas and educated coffee shop owners have shown us that while “Gafae Boran” or “Oliang” will always be a part of Thai culture, another spotlight should be put on the cultivation of local coffee in the North of Thailand.
With the Speciality Coffee Association of Thailand (SCATH) opening a few years ago and various coffee competitions growing over time, it’s clear this movement has found it’s legs, and its serious now.
Following such dramatic changes in coffee culture it was only a matter of time before we started seeing artisanal roasters and local community growers start pushing their products, and it has come in a big way.
But what’s so special about local Thai coffee?
We talked to a barista/opening manager, an award-wiining International pastry chef/iron chef and an all round global coffee fanatic their thoughts on the little known Thai Arabica coffee to find out what exactly is the charm of Thai coffee?
“Northern Thai Coffee is not just for drinking, it is an incredible ingredient to showcase in pastry and baking. Single origin arabica has an intriguing chocolate undertone with fruity acidity, creating an incredible balance leaving a sweet after taste of coffee flavor on your lips. This flavor is so versatile, and I often pair it with milk chocolate, passion fruit and/or caramel. The distinguished coffee flavor marries well with the sweet milk chocolate, then cut with the acidity of sour passion fruit creating a balanced dessert with outrageous flavor. Of course supporting the local community and it being sustainable agricultural product makes this coffee not just shine when drinking or eating, but also boasts the incredible bounty that Thailand offers the world.”
Award Winning Pastry Chef & Author
“For consumers on the hunt for coffee origins that aren’t traditionally associated with specialty coffee, I would certainly recommend giving Thai coffee a try. It may surprise you and you could even find a new favourite origin.”
“If we are talking about Thai coffee, it might not be well-known around the world. But just look closer. From the customers, baristas, roasters, processors, and farmers’ perspective, it is clear every aspect of the journey to making a great coffee product is here in Thailand. And all are close to each other.
We can travel 2 hours from the main city, Bangkok, to coffee farms. When we try to make new coffee innovations it is done easily as each link in the chain is quite close to each other.
While Thai specialty coffee was starting to be developed like 5 or 6 years ago, Thai people have learned a lot from many things. Coffee farmers, processors, baristas, and roasters study a lot and push the planting, processing, roasting, brewing development in many ways.
I would like to encourage you guys to try Thai coffee. I think it has improved very fast from 3-5 years ago. And I believe your tastebuds will tell you how great Thai coffee is.”
Witsawawit “Tam” Chantaweesomboon
Opening Manager/Professional Barista
“Thai arabica is reshaping Northern Thailand’s economy and its ecology.
Before the Royal Project Foundation introduced arabica coffee in the 1970s, opium was the main cash crop – to devastating effect. Addiction, deforestation, poverty. All part of the process.
But coffee farming is changing that. Thai arabica trees grow low to the ground, which rules out slash-and-burn techniques and incentivizes farmers to nurture the plantations where they grow coffee. Each tree lives up to a hundred years, so a long-term relationship develops. Generations of farmers tend the trees, and the trees nurture the soil, holding it together to counteract erosion and run-off.
And since Thai arabica thrives in shade of taller trees, it’s driving a slow-and-steady reforestation campaign across the North. It’s literally transforming the landscape.”
Founder Red Cliff Coffee