Bangkok and I go way back. I spent a year in Bangkok studying at Chulalongkorn University and doing a traineeship in 2011. Since then it’s been close to heart and started to feel like a second home, which is why I came back every single year at least for a few days. Returning to Bangkok has become even more exciting ever since I started writing about specialty coffee. The local cafe scene is thriving and while new and innovative coffee shop concepts keep popping up, I also see the already existing ones constantly moving or improving. If you’re visiting Bangkok for the first time, you’ll find vibrant neighbourhoods well beyond Khao San Road. My favourite districts for visiting cafés are Ari, Phaya Thai, Sukhumvit, Silom and Sathorn. There are also a couple of wonderful cafes in the area behind Hua Lamphong station. In this article I want to take you on a little journey to Bangkok’s most exciting neighbourhoods and their specialty coffee shops.
As a little side note, importing coffee from other parts of the world is quite expensive in Thailand due to heavy tariffs. Most cafes you’ll visit feature coffee beans from Northern Thailand, either as single origin or as part of a blend. To add a bit more complexity to the cup many roasters blend Thai coffee with beans from Ethiopia, Brazil or Colombia.
My favourite spots for specialty coffee in central Bangkok, sorted by neighbourhood
What Sukhumvit lacks in tourist attractions it makes up for with a maze of alleys packed with cosy restaurants and cafes, rooftop bars and great shopping. One could easily spend a month getting lost in the Soi’s, stumbling from one place to the next, only to find some of the best coffee and dining the city has to offer. Sadly, the legendary street food vendors of Soi 38 have been forced to relocate in order to make room for yet another condominium complex. There is not a lot of street food left in Sukhumvit, but Terminal 21 and EmQuartier have pretty good food courts. The specialty coffee shops not to be missed are:
Hello Strangers Cafe
Creative space serving beans roasted by Ristr8to from Chiang Mai. Great for working on your laptop.
Ceresia Coffee Roasters
Ceresia have a great selection of single origin coffees from across the coffee belt. Watch the roasting action on site through the giant glass window.
Sometimes I feel
Roast at EMQuartier and The COMMONS
This haven for brunchers, lunchers and diners has two locations, one in the shopping mall EmQuartier and one at the concept mall The Commons.
Casa Lapin x26
Casa Lapin is a roastery and specialty coffee chain with several cafés around Bangkok. The one nestled away in Soi 26 is adjacent the pretty hostel and co-working space One Day.
Brave Roasters : Space Oddity
Located in the lifestyle mall Seenspace in Thong Lor, this branch of Brave Roasters is famous for its signature drinks, such as the smoking iced Fume de Latte and Mocha. There are also different kinds of craft beer available to taste-try.
Pacamara Coffee Roaster x Specialty Coffee Lab
Hands and Heart Cafe
Minimal design, hand grinding and drip coffee only. This Instagram darling is a popular choice for cafe hoppers.
Phil Coffee Company
Pioneer artisan coffee roastery and Malay family affair operational since 2011 that currently offers single origins from Chiang Rai, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya. They became the 1st runner-up at the Thai Coffee Roasting Championship 2018.
Ink & Lion
Cosy micro-roastery café in Ekkamai that has been around since 2013.
One Ounce for Onion
One Ounce for Onion is sharing the space with a multi-label store in a quiet Soi in Ekkamai. Super cosy place with great food, coffee and local vibes.
Kaizen Coffee Co
This hipster hangout spot in Ekkamai is moving (December 2018) and I’ll hopefully get to show you the new space next month.
Roots is arguably one of Bangkok’s finest coffee roasters. It is located in the concept mall The COMMONS. While there is certainly no lack of shopping malls in Bangkok, The COMMONS stands out for its community centered approach and the plentiful outdoor seating where you can hang out even if you don’t decide to shop anything.
I had the opportunity to go on an origin trip to Northern Thailand together with head roaster Korn, which you can read about here, and saw first hand that Roots carefully selects only the best quality coffee. They are also the first specialty roastery to exclusively roast coffee from Thailand. As Korn told me, the quality of coffee in Northern Thailand has improved a lot over the last couple of years, a development that the roastery is strongly supporting. Roots have opened up a second location in Sathorn.
The financial district of Bangkok might seem like a jungle made of office buildings at first, but if you venture far enough, you’ll stumble upon art galleries, Hindu temples and great coffee shops. Strolling down Pan Road and visiting the Kathmandu Photogallery is a must when in the area. Around the impressive Sri Mariamman Temple you’ll feel teleported straight to India, only to be reminded by local street food vendors that you’re actually in Bangkok. Silom is a neighbourhood that can be described as beautifully diverse. As the sun sets it starts bustling with market and food stalls appearing in an instant, and during the day the following coffee shops are a great draw.
Roastology Coffee Roasters
Sathorn can be described as the laid back older sibling of Silom, slightly more grown up but equally diverse and interesting to discover. While it is a center for business and high-rise buildings, there are just as many residential areas in this neighbourhood that are often overlooked by visitors. Get lost in the alleys, immerse yourself in the local ay of life and refresh at these specialty coffee shops.
Roots at Sathorn
All Good in the Hood
Adjacent of All That Bangkok Hostel, this neighbourhood coffee shop is a great place to venture to. It is right in the middle of a residential area and local life will pass by while you sip on nitro cold brew.
Rocket Coffeebar S.12
All day breakfast and single origin coffee from Colombia, Ethiopia, and Thailand.
Chit Lom and Phloen Chit have probably the highest density of shopping malls and luxury hotels per square meter. It’s not surprising that the two specialty coffee shops in this neighbourhood are also located in shopping centers. The area is filled with expats in business attire as it houses a number of embassies. The are a few local markets, food stalls and restaurants around, but most of the establishments are high-end.
Coffee shop located in the Central Embassy mall with a one-of-a-kind counter.
iberista Specialty Coffee
Did I say Chit Lom has the highest density of shopping malls? Siam is definitely competing for that title, but shopping here is slightly more affordable, apart from the luxurious Siam Paragon. There is always something going on at Siam. From the BTS station you’ll see crowds of people pressed against a stage on most days, even though you’ll probably never figure out why they are there. Siam is also where to find the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC), which has different exhibitions going on that you can visit for free. Two great specialty coffee shops are to be found here, one in Siam Discovery Shopping Mall and one in the BACC.
I+D Style Cafe x Brave Roasters
A branch of Brave Roasters located in the shopping mall Siam Discovery.
Gallery Drip Coffee
Filter coffee only at the BACC (Bangkok Arts and Culture Center).
In recent years the neighbourhood around Phaya Thai and Ratchathewi BTS station has seen more and more designer hostels popping up in small alleys amidst local houses, markets and restaurants. Close to Phaya Thai is where I used to live when I studied in Bangkok and I always stay here when I return, partly for nostalgic reasons, but also because some great cafes and restaurants are to be found in the area. Nowadays, these following specialty coffee shops make the Phaya Thai neighbourhood even more attractive.
Lazy Mary Coffee
Casa Lapin Phaya Thai
Siam has long lost its hipster crowd due to the commercialisation of the area. Where did they go you ask? To Ari, an area that has developed at a slower pace than other parts of Bangkok. From local street food to chic restaurants, Ari offers something for every budget. Last but not least, these cafes serving specialty coffee make Ari the place to be!
Coffee No. 9
Casa Lapin x Ari