Chiang Mai - Coffee capital of Northern Thailand
I've been amazed by the large number of high quality coffee shops in Thailand. First Bangkok completely blew my mind and made me drink enough coffee to last a lifetime, now Chiang Mai has me feeling dizzy with its wide choice of creative coffee shops. I can't help but continue my quest to try them all and feature the best ones here, so you don't have to overdose!
While Thailand is not exactly famous for coffee compared to big exporting countries such as Brasil or Vietnam, it has its fair share of coffee farms in the Northern part of the country. All places I visited proudly brew and some roast Thai beans and occasionally invite a prominent guest country into a blend.
If I would make a home for myself at some point, I would like it to look a lot like Graph Café. It embraces you with soft colours and vintage interior, plays the right soundtrack to put you in a coffee coma and feeds you home-made cookies. At least this is what happened to me.
It is a tiny space fitting something like ten people. The smaller the better for me, as I love an intimate atmosphere that makes you feel part of something. A communal table encourages to socialize with those around you and the occasional sounds of coffee grinding and steaming milk remind you that you are not yet in heaven. I don’t want to leave! Can I move in please? I promise to drink a minimum of 50 cups a day! No chance, but I might camp outside tomorrow morning to be the first one to get in.
Graph Café is enchanting coffee lovers of Chiang Mai since two years. Wayu, who was pulling shots the day I dropped by, creates beautiful latte art, for which he practices relentlessly. For my cafe latte he used a blend of different Thai beans from the regions Doi Chaang, Aomkoi and Baan Hong but single origin coffee is available for drip options. As Chiang Mai gets quite hot during the day, there is a small fridge stuffed with cold brew to go. And for those who love to be visually inspired, beautiful photographs are decorating the walls.
Ratvithi Lane 1 Alley, Chiang Mai
Everyday 09:00 - 17:00
Khagee is Thai for fresh, which is exactly how this coffee shop feels - like a breeze of fresh air on a tropical summer day. Miki from Japan and her husband Thames opened this café/bakery by the banks of Ping River just east of old town Chiang Mai. It is nestled into the ground floor of a historic two-story building and sets a tranquil mood with minimalist interior design and soft, foresty colours. Their signature is great coffee coupled with freshly baked goods, such as carrot cake, bagels and melon buns.
Coffee enthusiasts will be excited to find a La Marzocco Strada pulling the shots here. The espresso blend is uniting three continents in one cup to create a fruity brew, with beans from Brasil, Colombia, Kenya and Laos.
Chiang Mai-Lamphun Soi 1
WED - SUN 10:00 - 17:00
Ristr8to has professionalism written all over it. With its two locations in Nimma district (short for Nimmanhaemin road and surroundings) it has long become a tourist attraction and the number one spot for specialty coffee in Chiang Mai.
Head barista and owner Khun Anon gained experience in the coffee industry for 4 years in Australia before opening up Ristr8to in 2011. One year later the first beans were roasted in the back of the cafe, in 2013 and 2014 Ristr8to continued to perfect their brewing techniques and went on to win national latte art championships, the rest is history.
The unique cult concept café spoils coffee lovers with endless options and own creations, such as the Ficardie invented in 2012 or the Cigar8to invented in 2013. The menu is plentiful, informative and leaves no coffee craving unfulfilled. If you don't know a drink by name the description will tell you every detail of its preparation. All coffee served is graded "specialty" and single origins are available from across the globe for drip coffee. Espresso based options can be prepared with their own blend of 40% Thai, 30% Mexican and 30% Colombian beans..
5/3 Nimmanhemin Road, Chiang Mai
MO - SUN 07:08 - 18:08
Now Akha Ama Coffee is an interesting one. While at first sight it is a well designed, hip coffee shop close to tourist attractions in Chiang Mai, there is much more behind it than meets the eye. As the logo suggests, Akha Ama is a social enterprise that seeks to empower the local hill tribe community of the "Akha" living in Northern Thailand. The coffee collective that is Akha Ama represents more than 20 families from the Maejantai village, who joined forces to increase the social and economic return for their main source of income: farming.
The founder of Akha Ama and face of the community is Lee Ayu, who launched the project in March 2010. His aim is to operate Akha Ama as a sustainable, fair trade, organic coffee brand that grows, processes and roasts high quality coffee. The brand is supported by no other than Stumptown from Portland and Lee Ayu travels back and forth between Thailand and the US to improve his skills and grow his business.
I had tried Akha Ama coffee already in Bangkok, when the staff from Lazy Mary came back from Chiang Mai with a package of freshly roasted Ponlamai beans, which are incredibly fruity. While I did not have a chance to visit the original store in the Chiang Purh area, I did make it to the second branch in Rachadamnoen Road and had a fine cup of coffee of their full city roast.
175 Rachadamnoen Road
MO - SAT 08:00 - 18:00
SUN 08:00 - 20:00
Step inside this two-story coffee refuge to travel in an instance to the lavender fields of La Provence. Dried flowers set a dreamy scene, accompanied by bird cages that function as lampshades. Sounds kinda weird? Not in Thailand it's not. Thai people are masters in reproducing European landscapes to the smallest detail, such as the Toscana Valley in Khao Yai.
Not far from Chiang Mai University, Factory is a popular hang-out spot for students and freelancers who appreciate the quiet and laid back atmosphere. Come here if you are a digital nomad in search of a decent internet connection! For tourists it is a bit off the beaten track but well worth the ride to enjoy delicious single origin coffee from Thailand.
Suthep 4 Road
As the name suggests, this is your place if you are in need of some relaxing close to Chiang Mai's Old Town. The couple Kuk and Add opened Ma-Chill in December 2014 and serve excellent coffee from Northern Thailand. They also take roasting into their own hands. The decor looks a little bit like from my grandma's living room. Cheesy vintage objects blend in beautifully with the wooden interior. But a little kitsch never hurt anyone, am I right? ;-)
11/11 Sridonchai RD.
TUE - SUN 08:00 - 18:00