Thai coffee roasters have been making names for themselves both at the domestic and international levels. Avid coffee drinkers are now considering specialty and fine-grade Thai coffee; Arabica beans from the northern region and Robusta from the south. In 2020, Thailand exported 81,000 tons of coffee beans, making it the world’s 10th biggest coffee exporter. Topped with ambitions from coffee-enthusiast entrepreneurs, Thai coffee is likely to gain more attention from the international market.
Here are 5 Thai coffee brands to watch in 2021
Started in 2010 by Lee Ayu Chuepa, an Akha ethnic graduate, with an aim to create a community-based social enterprise to improve the quality of life for his people. Akha Ama works with hill-tribe farmers to develop coffee production processes for sustainability. In the village of Mae Jan Tai, a “Living Factory” was established as an on-site processing plant and a space for workshops.
In addition to its 3 coffee shops in Chiang Mai, Akha Ama recently opened its first international store in Tokyo, Japan. Its specialty single-origin coffee had won World Cup Tasters Championship in 2010, 2011, and 2012, making it one of the most outstanding Thai brands to watch.
Roasting since 2010, Bluekoff seeks good Arabica coffee beans from all over Thailand before settling in Doi Chang, Chiang Rai. In the early days, they learned that farmers were not well-equipped with the knowledge to process the coffee, thus making the coffee drop in quality. Eventually, the brand sets up a coffee processing factory in Doi Chang and buys coffee beans from several ethnic minority groups to select the highest quality coffee for drinkers.
At its flagship store in Bangkok, Bluekoff provides workshops and training for coffee shop owners, grabbing the opportunities when the coffee shop business is growing enormously in Thailand in the past 5-6 years. Bluekoff cafes operate in 6 provinces in Thailand and one international branch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Head south to this hand-roasted coffee station in Ranong. Gong Coffee proves that simplicity is still charming as he roasts fine-grade Robusta coffee beans cultivated by various farmers in Ranong province on a gas stove and a small wok. In 2019, it is reported that Gong Coffee sold around 10 tons of coffee and exported it to the USA, Australia, and Europe.
At the processing site in Ranong, visitors can learn how to hand-roast coffee with Gong, Supot Kornprasitwat, himself, as well as shop for local products and coffee-making tools.
Branded themselves as ‘coffee fanatics’, Root cafe aims to serve a good cup of coffee with good intention to support farmers with a “cup-to-farm” ethos. The brand also offers products from farmers and roasters, mainly from the northern part of Thailand like Ban Mon Jong in Tak, Khun Lao Village in Chiang Rai, Khao Chang Khian, Ban Mae Dad Noi, Doi Saket, and Mae Kampong in Chiang Mai.
Root cafe has 5 shops in Bangkok including Thong Lo and Emquatier. Its online store also has products such as cold brew coffee, drip coffee bag, capsule, and coffee beans produced by each processor from various origins.
Ministry of Roasters
This up-and-coming coffee brand has a wide range of farmers and roasters to offer. Ministry of Roasters teaches people how to roast and sell coffee products including coffee beans, ground roasted coffee, and coffee drip bags. Though their coffee is not single-origin and includes coffee from well-known origins, the story that comes along with each product is still pleasant to hear.
With an active presence on social media, the brand shares knowledge and brewing experience with interested parties. What makes Ministry of Roasters special is that it doesn’t shy to invite partnered farmers and roasters to share their stories via the platform, too.
While the domestic consumption of coffee in Thailand is still considerably low, at 1.2 kg per person per year (around 300 cups per person per year) – almost half of what European drinkers consume (600 cups per person per year), the local production is still not sufficient and the country is still relying on imports. That is to say that there are still many growth opportunities ahead for the industry.