Chiang Mai, one of Thailand’s most fascinating cities, is home to a vibrant specialty-coffee scene, with many cafés and roasteriess often offering locally grown coffee.
BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT
Featured photo by Tim Durgan via Unsplash
With a population of 3 million, Chiang Mai is a little (by Asian standards) gem in northern Thailand, most famous for its Old City surrounded by canals and filled with beautiful Buddhist temples.
In fact, the central part of the city is relatively small, with its alleys of one- and two-story buildings, old temples, and plenty of cozy cafés and restaurants.
Outside the Old City, the rest of the city seems perpetually stuck in gridlock. But it offers unexpected and beautiful neighborhoods hidden behind huge buildings, filled with hipster cafés, restaurants, and boutiques ready to welcome the most adventurous explorers.
The common feature between the Old City and the rest of Chiang Mai is the abundance of specialty-coffee shops and roasteries. Most of them serve coffee grown in the mountainous area between here and Chiang Rai, three hours farther north.
Here is a short list of cool cafés in Chiang Mai, both inside and outside the old city.
The area near Wat Chiang Man, the city’s oldest temple, is probably one of the prettiest in the Old City, with quaint corners reminiscent of Kyoto, Japan, and hipster juice bars and yoga classes that allow one to feel in the heart of Ubud.
In one of these corners, shaded by a huge bougainvillea, is Nowhere and its lovely patio, shared with a small art gallery and an even smaller ramen store.
Behind the café, the friendly owner, Trakool Roikaew, roasts coffee grown by his family in the nearby mountains. If you want to learn more about the coffee produced in the area, Nowhere is definitely the place for you.
Not too far from Nowhere, Bart probably wins the prize as the smallest café in town. This tiny room’s walls are decorated with millions of writings and sticky notes (to which you can add your own thanks to the markers available on the table). A small coffee counter is graced with a beautiful classic La Marzocco. Outside are a few benches in the shade of a tree that actually grows in the space. Bart is a simple place, yet it’s just perfect, with the lovely owner/bartender making tasty espressos for locals and tourists alike.
In the heart of the Old City, one block from the Three Kings Monument, Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center shares its beautiful courtyard with Gallery Drip Coffee.
Friendly and welcoming, Gallery offers probably the largest selection of Thai coffee in the entire city, best enjoyed—as the name suggests—as hot or cold filter, as well as espresso.
And if you fall in love with the place, remember that if you ever return to Bangkok, you will have the chance to double your luck by also visiting the other Gallery Drip Coffee, housed in a similar setting in the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC).
If you want to go “full-Thai“ and enjoy your coffee at a kiosk, little A-Roon is definitely the place to be. Conveniently located between a 7-Eleven (which is “the“ drugstore here) and the local bus/taxi stop, A-Roon offers delicious espresso drinks (both hot and cold) and the classic Thai iced latte, a local delicacy.
Made with condensed milk, milk, cream, and regional tea extracted (surprisingly) by an espresso machine, Thai tea latte is rather sweet but extremely good. Beware: Once you try it, there’s no going back!
As a reward for the brave who venture out of the Old City and wander the beautiful streets of Chiang Mai’s Nimman district, many delightful cafés will welcome coffee lovers with their delicious beverages. One of these is the flagship store of Roast8ry and the central branch of Ristr8to.
Both developed by local coffee hero and coffee champion Arnon “Tong” Thitiprasert, the two brands were created more than a decade ago by Tong and a group of award-winning baristas. Their goal was to offer the best possible coffee experience in every aspect, from roasting to tasting to latte art.
Head to Ristr8to Original for the Nordic, minimalist style, or to the not-too-distant Roast8ry flagship store for a more industrial space. In both cases, you’ll find tasty coffees and obsessive attention to every detail of your chosen brew.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.