Bangkok, 24 August, 2021 – Coffee, which is known by the universal word, or กาแฟ (“Cafe”) in the Thai language, is more popular than ever in the Kingdom. Over the past few years, the emergence of a coffee culture fuelled by creativity in marketing and design online has hyped interest in the product exponentially.
Coffee production is relatively new to Thailand. Starting as recently as the early 1970s, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great created agricultural projects in the northernmost provinces to help local farmers make income and gain knowledge by expanding into a new agribusiness.
In more recent times, Thailand has gained recognition on the world stage. In 2014, Thailand was recognised as one of the top 25 coffee producers in the world. However, the country is unique amongst coffee producers- most of the coffee grown domestically is sold and consumed here, with less than 10% of the annual yield being exported to other countries.
There are two primary types of coffee being grown in Thailand: robusta and arabica. Robusta beans, which are grown primarily in the Southern provinces, are often used to produce instant coffee. Alternatively, arabica beans are predominantly grown in the Northern region by local communities of ethnic Hmong and Karen people. As such, the expansion of the coffee industry in Thailand has had a direct positive impact on the livelihoods of the indigenous communities farming the product.
The expansion of the coffee industry alongside the relatively low export of the beans has created an ecosystem in which the coffee business is growing – and thriving – throughout the country. Along the way, there have been many exciting new developments that have made coffee a part of everyday life in Thailand, as well as opened up opportunities for consumers to partake.
Endless craft coffee shops are popping up throughout the country, but the classic streetside coffee culture has not dissipated. Even today, there are “street food” versions of classic coffee stands all over the place, even on rural roadsides, that serve coffee beverages made from instant coffee for 30 Baht or less.
As the Thai coffee industry expands, new businesses of all types are opening to support the supply chain, including everything from agriculture supplies to packaging and the actual beans. A few distinguished Thai coffee brands include Doi Chang, Doi Tung, and Doi Thai.
Delicious local beverages
Interestingly, the expansion of the coffee industry in Thailand has led to an evolution of the beverages adapted to the tropical climate. More often than not, coffee shops are gearing their menus towards cold and refreshing coffee drinks, usually focusing on the appearance as much as the taste.
Even more exciting, the creative envelope of coffee drink recipes is being pushed further. More than ever, coffee connoisseurs are incorporating other local products grown in Thailand into their tasty coffee beverages, including coconut, guava, lychee, and even strawberries.
For those interested in a hands-on learning experience, a few well-known coffee producers in Chiang Mai offer tours of the plantations year-round. Plantations in Doi Chang, one of the original Thai coffee production sites located just outside of Chiang Mai city, provide tours and tastings.
There are also plenty of options for cafe hopping and coffee tasting in the Northern provinces where the coffee is grown and in more densely-populated cities like Bangkok, where the coffee-meets-art culture is taking off.
For more information about what is happening with coffee in Thailand, and perhaps some inspiration for which beverage or coffee shop you should try next, check out the #BKKCAFEHOPPING hashtag on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/bkkcafehopping/