Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Thailand

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Welcome expats to the rich tapestry of coffee culture in Thailand, where the aroma of roasted beans intertwines with the Southeast Asian humidity. Thailand may not be the first country that comes to mind when discussing coffee, but this Southeast Asian nation is quietly making a name for itself in the coffee scene. Whether you are a diehard coffee enthusiast or just looking for a caffeine fix, this guide is here to help you navigate the local coffee culture and make the most out of your Thai coffee experience.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Thailand is not traditionally known as a major coffee producer, but the coffee industry has been steadily growing in recent years. The two main types of coffee grown in Thailand are Arabica and Robusta, with the former being more popular among coffee connoisseurs for its floral and fruity notes. Robusta, on the other hand, is known for its strong and bold flavor.

One of the key regions for coffee cultivation in Thailand is Chiang Rai in the north, known for its high-altitude farms that produce premium Arabica beans. Head south to Chiang Mai, and you'll find Robusta plantations that thrive in the warmer climate. For expats interested in exploring coffee plantations firsthand, there are numerous farms, such as Maewnam Coffee Plantation, that offer tours and tasting sessions. Interacting with local coffee growers and farmers also provides a unique glimpse into the industry and the hard work that goes into cultivating a cup of coffee.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Thai coffee is unique and diverse, with several traditional brews and specialty blends that differ from Western styles. The Thai iced coffee, or kafea sai nam yeow, is a popular choice for locals and expats alike. The coffee is brewed using Robusta beans and then served over ice with sweetened condensed milk. The result is a rich, smooth, and creamy coffee with a strong kick of caffeine.

For Arabica coffee aficionados, the yen kai pag (milk coffee) is a must-try. The coffee is brewed using Arabica beans and then mixed with sweetened condensed milk, resulting in a smooth and well-balanced flavor. Other popular Thai coffee drinks include kafeh oeng (black coffee) and kafeh arnam samai (Thai iced coffee with coconut milk), both of which offer unique twists on classic coffee styles.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

Coffee culture in Thailand goes beyond just the drink itself. Similar to many Asian countries, coffee is more than just a beverage in Thailand; it is a social activity that brings people together. A popular social ritual in Thailand is khao kluk kapi, which is essentially a late breakfast that consists of rice porridge (jok), coffee, and a range of savory dishes. It is a daily tradition for many Thai families to gather around the table and share a cup of coffee together.

For expats who want to merge their coffee-drinking habits with the local customs, seek out modern coffee shops that offer a blend of traditional and Western styles. Take, for example, Onlan Coffee Co, which is known for its freshly roasted single-origin coffee and serves traditional and modern designs such as khao niaow ( Thai sticky rice) and yen kai pag (milk coffee) in a cozy and comfortable environment. This is an excellent example of how coffee shops in Thailand cater not only to the local preferences but also adapt to the needs of expats.


Embracing the vibrant coffee culture in Thailand is an excellent opportunity for expats to immerse themselves in the authentic local experience while respecting Thailand's unique traditions and customs. Adapting to the unfamiliar coffee styles and social rituals can indeed be challenging initially, but it is an opportunity for cultural exchange and enrichment. As the coffee industry continues to expand in Thailand, expect to see more variety, innovation, and excellence in the local coffee scene. The coffee culture in Thailand is fascinating, constantly evolving, and full of surprises; expats who love their coffee should embrace the experience wholeheartedly.