I love me a good cup of coffee and one of the many reasons I love Chiang Mai is it seems wherever you are in the city, a good cup of java is just around the corner. The coffee scene has really exploded here in the last five years with new shops opening daily. With all these choices you may be torn as to where to go. Fear not as I will share with you three distinctly different coffee experiences , each of them with excellent coffee and interesting in their own way.
|Lee at Akha Ama Coffee
My default cafe for a quality brew is without a doubt Akha Ama Coffee. The original shop is set in a quiet residential neighborhood in the Santitham area with a lovely treed patio in front. The coffee is super , with my usual order being the picolo latte. It has the strong coffee taste and effect with just enough milk to sweeten it up a bit. It is a steal at only 40 baht ($1.20 USD) The story behind Akha Ama coffee is quite inspiring as well. The young man who started the enterprise, Lee, had a huge problem to deal with and came up with an amazing solution. You see. Lee belongs to the Akha Ama hilltribe and his family village up in the mountains was primarily farming poppies for the opium trade these past decades. The opium trade in Thailand has been stamped out in the past decade, but what were these farmers to replace it with? The Akha Ama were smart enough to realize that both the climate and elevation were ideal to grow Arabica coffee beans and Lee has figured out how to market this award winning coffee well. Now his village has a sustainable cash crop and Akha Ama Coffee has become a bit of a a legend. It has expanded from a one room coffee shop to multiple branches, coffee tours in the mountains and Lee himself is always in demand, often invited around the world attending fine food and drink events to promote his great coffee.
|cigistr8to at Ristr8to
Next up is a Ristr8to Coffee, in the trendy Nimmanhemin area, which reigns as the most popular coffee place in the city. I can vouch for it’s popularity, as I had to wait several minutes just to get in as it was full, full, full. The barista/owner really does take his latte art seriously and gives a world class presentation. I had the cigistr8to, which even comes in it’s own custom made cup, and it was pretty damn good. The only downside of the experience is it can be quite noisy at times, basically we had to try shouting over the people next to us. Nonetheless, if you love coffee, this place is a must.
Last but not least is Deco Coffee, a low-key but high-quality coffee shop . It is located in the quiet Saraphi village area, a few kms south of city center. The owner/barista has an encyclopedic knowledge of coffee and it really shines though in his product. His espresso shot is pretty much perfect, also great was cappuccino and an Aeropress brew. There is delicious chocolate cake to go along with it. I bought some really good locally grown beans here as well. Whereas in the other shops everyone was indulging in selfies and coffee porn shots, it didn’t feel right to take out a camera here, it was just about great tasting coffee. One wall is filled with info from A to Z on coffee, I do kind of wish I took some snaps of that. Deco is off the beaten path, but certainly worth the ride if you are into quality coffee.
There you have it, 3 great coffee options for you to try in Chiang Mai. Let me know your favourite and any other sweet spots I need to check out.