Elefin shares its passion for speciality Thai coffee
From Kenya and Tanzania to Nicaragua and Indonesia— when it comes to specialised cafés and coffee shops in Bangkok, internationally imported beans are well represented and often favoured over their local counterparts for various reasons. For starters, unlike rice or tapioca, coffee has never been an important crop for Thailand and, despite offering ideal conditions, growing the dark beans has never really been government funded or subsidized. This results not only in a much smaller production scale but also a lack of quality compared to coffee from many other countries.
In order to prove that Thailand can also produce excellent quality coffee, some coffee shops have put their focus on sourcing local beans. One such shop is Elefin Coffee, a small Thai brand which offers customers 100 percent Thai Arabica coffee, among many other locally sourced and sustainable products, while paying respect to all the hands involved in the process—from farmers to consumers.
This coffee shop “chain” is owned by Hansar Hotels & Resorts, and opened its first shop on Sukhumvit Soi 1 over ten years ago. Since then, it has moved to the Siam Museum and the Hansar Bangkok Hotel in Silom, and opened its most recent addition last February, close to Wat Pho in Bangkok’s Old Town.
Their beans are sourced directly from hilltribe farmers— including the Akha and Lisu tribes—from a village close to Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. Because the beans are grown in high altitude areas, they are less acidic and bitter, resulting in a more nuanced flavour and smoother taste. While one tribe focuses on the cultivation, the other is responsible for the processing and ploughing of the beans. Through regular visits and continuous conversations, Elefin has established a close relationship with the farmers. By ensuring that they receive fair compensation for each harvest, Elefin not only supports the local communities, but also builds the foundation for producing the highest quality coffee.
As part of the next step in the farm-to-cup process, the beans are then roasted in small batches right here in Bangkok. While living in the US, the owners of Elefin met Seattle-based coffee visionary Ed Leebrick from Lighthouse Roasters. Internationally known and recognized as one of the best coffee roasters in the world, he shared his expertise and assisted in the development of the business for over fifteen years. To make sure the coffee is processed with consistent results, he visits Thailand himself, or sends baristas to regularly check the roast, quality, and even train the staff.
Another priority, designed to offer customers the best experience possible, is the “freshness” of the coffee. While at other cafés the coffee might be kept for use for up to three months, the beans at Elefin are never older than one week, meaning the coffee is brewed at its peak of flavour. This same rule applies to their beans available for retail, in the form of Japanese-style drip coffee, as well as espresso beans.
Elefin’s commitment to sourcing local and quality products doesn’t stop at coffee–it is mirrored throughout their entire identity. Their menu offers a selection of traditional Thai dishes, including somtam, pad thai and khao soi, as well as different pastries and cakes, with most produce sourced from organic farms. For the full experience, even some of their ceramics are bought locally, at places like Chatuchak Market. “We might pay a higher price, but the quality is important to us,” explains Rasmus Poll, Assistant F&B Manager at Hansar Hotels & Resorts.
After more than ten successful years, it’s safe to say that their efforts of offering customers a fully Thai experience have been well received. However, in Rasmus’ opinion “the best is yet to come”. And, in order to pursue their mission, they are always on the lookout for new things to expand the Elefin brand, such as their new cold brew coffee and juices.
Hansar Bangkok Hotel
3/250, Mahadlekluang 2, Ratchadamri Rd.
Tel: 02 209 1234
Open daily: 7am-midnight