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Coffee in Thailand, Part 1

Michael Babcock, Monday, April 1st, 2013

Over the past few years there has been a proliferation of places selling fresh-brewed coffee in Thailand. This blog looks at some of the places where this phenomena is taking place.

For the most part, the coffee is pressed coffee (as with “espresso”), made to order. More often than not, you’ll see the whole beans and the grinding mechanism in the same place – at many of the smaller places, the coffee is ground to order.

Espresso Machine

Thai coffee making machine

Coffee

Cup of coffee

Most of the coffee is dark-roasted; sometimes overly so. There is a lighter roast called “Blue Mountain” that is available at some places – I tend to order that when it’s available and find it much to my liking.

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

(Click images to see larger version.)

If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll want to memorize two words of Thai in the Thai script (spelled without an intervening space): กาแฟสด, pronounced kafae sot. กาแฟ (kafae) means “coffee” and สด (sot) means “fresh” – so “fresh coffee.” It’s probably not strictly necessary because the stands and cafes selling coffee are also recognizable by the espresso machines and the coffee beans they usually display; in addition, the signs often include a cup of coffee (as to the left). In some places, there’s a sign in English. On other occasions, knowing the script has helped me find a place I might have overlooked.

Local Stands & Coffee Houses

I’m now finding these “fresh coffee” stands all over Thailand. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other larger towns, you’ll find them on the streets and in markets, often just a simple cart with the coffee grinder and a small espresso machine. The picture below shows a coffee stand found on Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lo – pronounced “tawng law”). It’s a fairly typical example.

Coffee Stand

Thong Lo coffee stand

Making Coffee

Thong Lo barista at work

The pictures below show another coffee stand, this one found at Worarat Market in Chiang Mai. The barista makes a very good cup of coffee.

Coffee Sign

Sonnen Cafe in Worarat Market

Thai Barista

Barista at Sonnen Cafe


Coffee Stand

Sukhothai coffee stand

Stand Close-up

Close-up of stand

I am seeing more places where you can purchase a coffee and sit down. We visit a the Sathorn Golden Textile Museum in Sri Satchanalai (in Sukhothai province) that has this coffee stand; they have excellent “blue Mountain” coffee. This stand is found indoors amongst a number of other shops.

Coffee Beans

Coffee beans in Sukhothai stand

Sukhothai Coffee

Blue Mountain Coffee


Coffee House

Before Sunset Coffee

Barista 2

Mae Hong Son barista

I’m also finding more places that we would think of as a proper café – some place to buy a coffee and to sit and enjoy it. This is “Before Sunset Coffee” and is perched right on the edge of a beautiful view in the parking lot at Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu in Mae Hong Son.

Coffee To Go

Caffe Latte at Before Sunset Coffee


Sign

Sign to Samut Prakan Cafe

Coffee Stand 2

Stand in Imperial World

I’m guessing that much of the increase in popularity of coffee initially was driven by Western tourists who wanted their morning fix. Now more and more Thai people seem to be embracing the drink. “Coffee houses” are making their appearances in the neighborhoods as well. Kasma owns a townhouse out in the Samrong district of Samut Prakan, which is immediately adjacent to the SE corner of Bangkok. It’s a very Thai neighborhood: usually I’m the only westerner I see on the streets, in the markets, or even in the Imperial World shopping center across the way; Imperial world has at least 7 or 8  non-chain coffee shops in addition to Amazon, (one of the chains). With so few westerners to be seen, Thais must be buying coffee. Even in the local fresh market there (Talat Samrong), there’s a fresh coffee stand. I do know that over the past couple of years our driver, Sun, is drinking more coffee.

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

My favorite place to get coffee is a no-name coffee house on Sukhumvit Road in Samrong. This cafe is found on the odd-soi side of the Sukhumvit between soi 111 and 113, marked only by a กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign. They make a rich coffee made with foam, a real caffe latte. (The second picture in this blog, at the top of the page, is a caffe latte from this cafe.) Thais must be it’s primary customers: there just are not enough of us fahrangs (the Thai word for westerner).

Cafe

Samut Prakan Coffee House

This shop is owned by a young lady who says it is her “hobby.” She also has a regular job. I’ve only seen her there once; the other times there’s been the same young woman employee, friendly and competent. I don’t think the cafe has free wi-fi, like so many coffee houses in the United States,; I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this is commonly offered. I have seen it advertised at coffee houses in the touristed areas, particularly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Many Internet cafés also sell coffee; I frequent one in Chiang Mai.


See also:


Written by Michael Babcock, April 2013

Donuts in Thailand, An Informal Survey

Michael Babcock, Friday, February 15th, 2013

This is a blog about donuts in Thailand. Over the years, I’ve observed donuts in a number of locations, from chain stores to open-air markets. This blog shows some of the donuts I’ve seen over the years.

Colorful Donuts

From a Bangkok open-air market

As I’ve observed before, there has been a proliferation of western carbohydrates in Thailand over the 21 years I’ve been coming here. (See my blog, in a new window, Western Carbs in Thailand.) Although Thai kanom (snacks) are relatively healthy (they nearly all contain a healthy ingredient such as coconut milk, squash, taro, etc.), some kanom wahn (sweet kanom) can be very sweet – some Thais do have a sweet tooth. (Also see my blog, in a new window, Thai Sweet Snacks.)

(Click images to see larger version.)

It would appears that donuts are fairly popular. In January 2011 we happened to be visiting Siam Paragon shopping center. We saw a line of perhaps 50 or 60 Thais, out the door, and wondered what the fuss was about. Turns out they were all lined up for Krispy Kreme donuts; we saw people walking away with two large boxes of donuts. I didn’t have my camera but you can see a photo of the phenomena at Krispy Kreme Opens in Bangkok | everythinghapa (opens in new page). Thais were still lining up half a year after the stores official opening. Certainly, this reflects the inroads in Thailand of Western food chains, something discussed at Indigenization of Thai Restaurants Overseas: Part 1 – American Fast Food Chains in Thailand.

Selling Snacks

"Hawker" with "donut holes"

These days you can find lots of donuts in any shopping center. There are inevitably a chain or two – Mr. Donut and Dunkin’ Donuts are popular – but you can also find donuts in the ground-floor supermarkets (found in every mall) as well as in the many stores (usually a dozen or more) selling western-style baked goods. You’ll find them in open-air markets, from vendors on the street and even from hawkers carrying two baskets suspended by a bamboo pole. As with the first picture above (taken at a Bangkok outdoor market in 2008), the donuts are often brightly glazed.

The Thais also have some snacks that are very reminiscent of donut holes. In Oakland we have donut savant (link goes to their Facebook page in new window), which makes the best donut holes around.

Thai Snack

A Thai snack

Inside a Snack

Inside the Thai snack

Here are two pictures of a “Thai donut hole.” I bought this snack from the hawker shown in the picture to the above right in Sukhothai. They reminded me of donut savant so I gave them a try. They were somewhat sweet (deep-fried and glazed) and contain a mung-bean filling, shown to the left, that is barely sweet. They weren’t bad!

Another Hawker

Hawker with 3 snacks

Glazed Donuts

Glazed donuts

Here are two pictures from Ayuthaya back in 2004. These donuts were sold by the hawker in the left picture. There are highly glazed donuts in the front basket and more traditional snacks in the back basket: the backmost (white) snack is a traditional snack rolled in coconut shreds, and the middle snack is a type of fried dough.

Sukhothai Donuts

Sukhothai Donuts

Tops Donuts #1

Tops Donuts #1

Above to the left are more glazed donuts from the morning market in Sukhothai. To the right, are some colorfully decorated donuts from the bakery at Tops Supermarket at MBK center in Bangkok.

Western & Thai

Western & Thai together

Mae Hong Son Donuts

Mae Hong Son Donuts

These pictures are both from the market in Mae Hong Son. The leftmost picture again (as with the hawker above) shows western and Thai snacks sold by the same person. The left tray has very tightly rolled donuts in back next to powdered jelly donuts in the front. The right trays show coconut pancakes (kanom krok) sold in banana leaf baskets: truly the traditional is meeting the modern here! The picture to the right shows deep-fried donuts, some with sesame seeds.

Donuts in a Bag

Donuts in plastic bags

Plain Donuts

Plain donuts in Mae Hong Son

These are also from the market in Mae Hong Son and show small donuts sold pre-packaged in a plastic bag – 8 for 10 baht (about 35 cents at the time)! I tried these donuts – each one was about two bites: they tasted just like a plain cake donut back in the states. Not bad.

I should note that like Sukhothai, this market is frequented mainly by locals with just a few tourists; it is certainly the locals who are the target audience for these supposedly western sweets.

Tops Donuts #2

From Tops Market

Tops Donuts #3

Unglazed Tops donuts

Here are two more pictures of the donuts available at Tops Supermarket at the MBK center in Bangkok. My, they do like highly frostinged donuts! The ones to the right are less sweet.

Mr. Donut

Mr. Donut in a shopping center

Mr. Donut's Donuts

Mr. Donut's Donuts

There’s a Mr. Donut in nearly every mall in Bangkok. This picture is from the Imperial World in Samrong (Samut Prakhan) on the edge of Bangkok. There’s a Mr. Donut on the lower and the ground floors. I also see that there’s a big sign on the main floor announcing that “Dunkin’ Donuts is coming soon!”


See also (all open in a new window):


Written by Michael Babcock, February 2013

Fresh Thai Chillies (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Thai Chillies in Sukhothai

Fresh Thai Chillies

Fresh Thai Chillies

Here is a photo of some very fresh Thai Chillies, called prik kee noo in Thai. These. chillies are, indeed, fiery hot. Unlike some other hot peppers, the heat seems to build up and accumulate as you continue eating so that a dish, that at first bite did not seem that hot, can turn out to be very hot indeed!

We’ve already pictured Dried Red Chillies from the morning market in Suhkothai.

Read about Thai Chillies – find out why they are called “mouse shit chillies” (prik kee noo).


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Dried Red Chillies (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Dried Red Chillies in Sukohthai

Dried Red Chillies

Dried Red Chillies

This is a picture of some luscious dried red chillies at the morning market in Sukhothai.

For years Kasma has struggled to find really good dried red chillies in Bay Area markets; she’s been unsuccessful. So now, every year when she goes to Thailand, she buys several kilograms at the Sukhothai market and brings them home to use during the year.

The vendor tells her that these come from India but does not know the variety or the name. She’s found that using these in her cooking makes a marked difference. It’s particularly useful in recipes such as  Roasted Chilli Paste (Nahm Prik Pow) but noticeable in any recipe she’s tried.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Sukhothai Coffee Stand (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Kasma Loha-unchit at Thai Coffee Stand

Sukhothai Coffee Stand

Sukhothai Coffee Stand

Over the past several years, coffee stands such as this one have become fairly common throughout Thailand; at least in the areas where Kasma takes her small-group tours to Thailand. You’ll find them an many gas stations, in markets, on sidewalks or, as with this stand in Suhkothai, by the side of the read.

The coffee is usually quite good. Typically, each cup is ground and brewed to order. Many of the stands have a type of coffee that is called “Blue Mountain” – it does not refer to the Jamaican bean, rather it refers to a way of roasting the bean and it is really quite good.

You can start reading our multi-part series on Thai coffee with Coffee in Thailand, Part 1


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.