It’s hard to believe the ways coffee has changed in the past decade. From saccharine Nescafé toted in plastic bags to shade-grown Ethiopian Arabica beans locally roasted, hand-ground, and brewed in an AeroPress, coffee appreciation has radically transformed in Bangkok. So, too, has café culture.
It’s hard to reconcile a love for gafe bolan with a taste for cold-brewed coffee and siphon filters, and yet we do. Some of the most traditional Thai coffee shops are still kicking, adored by generations young and old. At the same time, doe-eyed baristas, rapt in the science of brewing, are opening cafés by the week.
Is Bangkok a Melbourne in waiting? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is for sure: coffee is on the rise in Thailand, especially Bangkok. With the scene booming, now is a great time to hit the streets, mug in hand.
Thong Lo – Ekamai
The density of poured-over, French-pressed cafés in these interconnected neighbourhoods, equal parts hipster and hi-so, speaks to the strength of coffee culture not only here, but in Bangkok on the whole.
bangkok 101– Among the many excellent options, the young Ink & Lion in Ekamai is making a name for itself. The beans largely come from local roasters Brave, Ceresia, and Pacamara, and desserts from Size S Bakery. All of the goodies are treated with the level of care they deserve—slow-drip coffee and photo-worthy latte art prepared by au fait baristas. The space doubles as an art gallery, begging for slow mornings spent lingering over an espresso and a fresh waffle served with homemade ice cream.
Roots and its trailblazing affiliate Roast are institutions, the latter a must-visit brunch spot as well as a café. Try the cold-brewed coffee at Roots, and be sure to chat up the baristas; their coffee knowledge is encyclopaedic, to say the least. Nikko Café, with its garden seating, well-made coffee, and gentle foray into nightlife with Japanese-inspired cocktails, is a pleasant place to while away the hours. On the corner of Petchaburi Road, Fu.5Coffee is a cosy 24-hour joint that serves a mean banhmi and refreshing fruit concoctions, as well as coffee and tea. On critically endangered street food haven Soi 38, Hands and Heart has gone all-in on minimalism, offering single origin slow pours in a stark white-and-black space.
Over in Ekamai, Kaizen Coffee Co. takes the soul of the Australian scene up a notch, dabbling in gadgetry like nitrogen-brewed coffee. Check out Phil Coffee for another take on cold-brewed coffee. One Ounce for Onion, the café-shop attached to the phenomenal Brave Roasters, is every bit as good as expected. Like so much of Bangkok, Elmar Offwhite is caught up in the South Korean craze, churning out delicious gawk worthy desserts (Dutch Babies, Bingsu, Strawberry WooU) as well as smooth, creamy coffee.
Sathorn – Silom
Quaint coffee shops speckle the Sathorn landscape like dandelions. Home to skyscrapers, office towers, luxury hotels, and sky-high serviced apartments, this bustling community has transformed in recent years. Now, there’s no shortage of places to enjoy a quality cup of joe, whether at the kiosk or café.
bangkok 101– There’s more than espresso brewing at Rocket Coffee Bar. This Swedish-owned café is as beloved for caffeinated creations as it is Instagram inducing dishes, all adhering to an organic, farm-to-table philosophy. From fresh-squeezed juice blends to cold brewed Rocket Fuel, and from light wood tables to a central serving bar, everything about this place screams cutting-edge and cosmopolitan.
For a sure thing, visit one of the Dean & Deluca branches, in particular the one in MahaNakhon Cube; it takes the form of a dine-in restaurant and deli, and the coffee never lets you down. Up the road, late-night worker bees flock to Too Fast To Sleep, one of Bangkok’s favourite 24-hour cafés. Coffee Society, in the proverbial heart of Silom Road, also serves round the-clock jolts. On Soi Ngam Du Phli, Size S Coffee &Bakery makes some tooth-tickling desserts, which go perfectly with pour-over coffees. Next to BTS Sala Daeng, Flair the Espresso Bar prides itself on velvety coffee with cute, innovative latte art.
bangkok 101– At Hello Strangers, the coffee has a nice fruit-like taste and balanced acidity, and the latte art—swans, lions, flowers—melts hearts. Set back in Sukhumvit 26, the café achieves a laid-back vibe conducive to reading, writing, or simply meditating over a brownie or two.
Also on Sukhumvit 26, KIOSKcafe offers a sophisticated aspect to the scene, playing host to performance art on occasion. Check out Japanese inspired Li-Bra-Ry for a moment of Zen with a caramel macchiato and a good book to read. Right on Sukhumvit, California import Artís serves beautiful single origin coffees and desserts. Part roaster, part café, the minimally decorated Ceresia serves a wonderful flat white, among other options; you can pick up premium house-roasted beans here, too. Low-lit Wonderwall the Kaffebar bakes pastries each day, fine foils to its strong small batch coffee.
Urban expansion hasn’t hit Ari as it has other parts of the city. Sprawl means something different here. This neighbourhood carries residential undertones, and those, in turn, have influenced its café scene.
bangkok 101– In a word, Porcupine Café is cutesy.Or hipster. Or kitsch. Who cares? The coffees, teas, and desserts taste great, and the space is perfect for getting work done. That is, as long as you can resist posting photos of the interior décor on your Instagram account.
Other standout cafés in this tight-knit community include Puritan; the hodgepodge decorations might make it resemble an antique store, but the beautiful desserts say otherwise. Case Lapin X Ari marks another notch in the belt as the café gradually takes over the city, one neighbourhood at a time. Try the French press coffee for a clear brew. Another quaint hangout has also expanded to Ari. Kaffe by Li-Bra-Ry offers the same kind of relaxed air, spot-on coffees, and tasty desserts as its sister venue in Phrom Pong.
bangkok 101– On Lok Yun is a time capsule. This shophouse has hardly changed since it opened 80 years ago. Even the owners might be the same—it sure feels that way. With only ten tables, finding a seat can be a challenge, but when you get one, do as the locals do: order olieng with sangkaya toast. Before you know it, you might find yourself talking politics with the regular cast of elderly Thai-Chinese men.
On Lok Yun isn’t the only game in town. Kopi Hya Tai Kee, located next to the Giant Swing, has served strong, milky coffee with its special khai ga ta since1953. Eiah Sae, in Yaowarat, is gritty and old and wonderful, overflowing with grandpas playing chess and reading the paper; drop in for a glass of the black stuff with condensed milk. It’s not all old, either. There are plenty of modern cafés, like Farm to Table, which occupies an old building near Pak Klong Talad; Favour Café, famous for its unique style of brewing coffee with an octagonal moka pot; and Café Velodome, a bike-friendly café near Thammasat.
Siam – Phyathai
bangkok 101 – At the Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre, Gallery Drip Coffee is a destination through and through, thanks to its slow-life dedication to the art of coffee. All beans are fair trade, roasted by the owners in Bangkok, and hand-ground in the café before being brewed using the pour-over method. The various single origin beans from northern Thailand are especially worth a taste. Not to mention this supports Thai farmers.
Outside of Gallery Drip, pickings are slim, although Factory Café & Brew Bar, near Victory Monument, begs to differ. Baristas offer a variety of brewing methods, including siphon and à la mode AeroPress.
YOUR PICK – ROCKET COFFEE BAR We asked you to name your favourite café in Bangkok. You said Rocket. It’s hard to find fault with that selection. All three branches of the Scandinavian-tinged Rocket are at the forefront of café culture in the city, with their fresh menus and bold, clear coffee. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and congratulations to everyone at Rocket!