Whether you are looking for a vacation in the sun or just deeply interested in the wide and wild world of coffee, then a trip into the world of Thai Coffee is for you! With a rich and vivacious history and culture, Thailand has lots to offer by way of sights, scenes, and certainly coffee! When one hears the phrase “Thai Coffee” one may first imagine the sweet and delectable Thai Iced Coffee one can order at Thai restaurants around the world. While delicious, the world of Thai coffee is much more than this tasty drink!
What is Thailand Coffee?
Thai coffee, more broadly speaking refers to coffee beans produced in Thailand as well as the various drink and beverage styles one can enjoy there.
Coffee cultivation in Thailand began in the 1900s, but the operation on a full scale started in the 1970s at the behest of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The king’s goal was to assist communities in Thailand’s northern hill regions. For a long time, the only cash crop these communities had was poppies, which were used to produce opium. The king wanted these communities to have an alternative cash crop, so they no longer had to produce the illicit opium poppies.
By 1976 Thailand had become an exporter of coffee beans and is making an effort to make Thai coffee beans become a global commercial success today.
Thailand’s mountainous hill regions to the north with a cooler climate and heavier rainfall are ideal for Arabica. In contrast, the hotter regions to the south are where robusta beans are cultivated. Thai coffee beans are said to be slightly acidic and bitter, but also possessing a balancing sweetness, nutty aroma, and even a spicy taste!
Thailand coffee beans
The types of coffee beans produced in Thailand include Arabica beans in the north. The elevation, volcanic mineral-rich soil, and high humidity with slightly lower temperatures is a perfect location for the arabica plant.
Thailand even has two of its own arabica varietals Doi Tung and Doi Chang. Both of which earned a protected designation of origin status from the European Union. This is the same protection offered on Champagne and other food and beverages only legally called a certain name if produced in that particular region of the world.
The southern regions of Thailand produce Robusta, a good portion of which is for domestic consumption. Thailand’s coffee production has been on the rise with 50,000 tons produced in 2013 and a steady increase today.
Chiang Mai coffee
Or as it is also known as the “bean belt” because of its affinity for growing excellent arabica plants. Chiang Mai is a northern province of Thailand and is known as a popular tourist attraction, but its natural landscape is perfect for arabica plants too. The soil is packed with minerals and moisture from the mountain rains and high altitudes sporting some less intense temperatures but decent amounts of humidity. The resulting beans feature sweet, chocolatey, and fruity hints, notes, and nutty aftertastes.
Elephant poop coffee
If Indonesia has Kopi Luwak (Civet Cat poop coffee) and Viet Nam has Vietnamese weasel coffee, then Thailand is famous for elephant poop coffee.
Being described as “very smooth, nutty, fruity, raisiny” and free of the bitterness regular coffee possesses. Elephant poop coffee produced by the Black Ivory Coffee company is counted among one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world. For a kilogram of beans, a price tag of 1,000 dollars USD stands between you and this pachyderm poop java.
Why the high price? Well, it requires about 33 kilograms of raw coffee cherries to produce about one kilogram of coffee beans. There are so many variables in play that the finished product is something short of a miracle.
First, the elephants and their appetite for cherries play a role, next how aggressively the elephants chew up the cherries and potentially the beans, then there is the difficult process of finding the poop! Some of it may be lost or the beans that are found are too pulverized or damaged to collect. Elephant poop coffee is “provided” by elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. This elephant sanctuary uses money from coffee sales to pay for the elephant’s healthcare. For those wondering about the ethics behind this one, rest assured, veterinarians found that the coffee cherries do not negatively affect the elephants. Interestingly, the caffeine doesn’t even get absorbed by their bodies!
For those seeking some of these beans, try checking into a five-star hotel in Asia. You also can take a visit to Comfort, Texas where a shop called The Elephant Story has the beans stocked, with proceeds going to help save the elephants in Thailand.
Famous Thailand coffee drinks
No country of coffee is complete without its own unique regional variation on the beverage. In Thailand, one can find frappes, iced Americano, and other favorites one might find elsewhere, though perhaps not as smiley and laid back as they would in Thailand! However, there is a drink of the Thai coffee world that reigns supreme, and that is Oliang or Thai Iced Coffee.
“Oliang” meaning literally “black cold” in regional dialects, is a delicious take on cold coffee. The beverage itself is prepared with black coffee, brown sugar, cardamom, and other grains and seeds like sesame seeds and rice. The mixture is then poured over ice as is or added to condensed or evaporated milk for a sweet, rich, and creamy caffeine experience.
If you live in the States, you can find Oliang Thai coffee in most Thai restaurants. You also can buy Oliang powder mix in Asian supermarkets or on Amazon and make it at home. It is very easy to make from powder.
Famous Thai coffee brands
For those seeking to sample some of Thailand’s best beans, look no further than its two famous local varietals. Doi Chang and Doi Tung are two brands to seek out. Let’s not forget about Black ivory coffee, the producers of that one of a kind elephant poop coffee. The Lanna Cafe is another brand of Thai coffee for those looking to get a sample of superb Thai coffee beans.
You can still purchase these famous Thai coffee brands on Amazon if you do not have a chance to travel to Thailand.
If you come to Thailand, make sure to enjoy the lovely beaches, the spicy food, the wondrous pagodas and temples, and certainly, the magnificent coffee. From the wondrous Arabica grown in the northern mountains to the robust Robusta of the steamy south and certainly the elephant poop in between. Thailand coffee is something to bring a smile to your face!
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