Thai coffee might not be as famous as some other international blends, but there is still some excellent coffee to be found in Thailand. Some of the best Thai coffee is grown locally in the mountain provinces of the north and sold throughout Thailand where it can be enjoyed hot with Thai style doughnuts (pa thong koh) or can be taken over ice as a cooling pick-me-up. The phrase for a hot coffee is kaafae rawn and for an iced coffee it’s kaafae yen.
Instant coffee is widely available in Thailand, but it’s worth seeking out the traditional blends if you can. The coffee is usually roasted by the wholesaler but it is the vendor who will then grind it and filter it before serving to their customers. The traditional method of filtering uses a cloth filter or gauze bag and this traditional filtered coffee is called ‘kaafae tung’ (bag coffee). This is often served sweet with the addition of condensed milk and sugar. If you prefer your coffee black, ask for ‘kaafae dam’. If you don’t want sugar you should say ‘mai sai nam-taan’.
The increase in coffee shops and cafes in many tourist locations means that there are less old-style vendors around than there used to be. Where the traditional vendors do still exist, don’t be surprised if your coffee is simply poured into a plastic bag full of ice and served with a straw. Traditional style hot coffee is normally served in a small glass which is picked up by the rim to drink. Coffee drinking is more prevalent in some provinces of Thailand with places like Chiang Mai in the north and Trang in the south having distinct, but differing coffee cultures. Apart from the individual vendors, there are also some very good Thai coffee shops like Doi Chaang and Wawee that champion locally produced Thai coffee.
Useful Thai Coffee Phrases
kaafae rawn (hot coffee)
kaafae yen (iced coffee)
oh-liang (traditional-style iced coffee with sugar but no milk)
kaafae tung (traditional filtered coffee with milk and sugar, sometimes called ko-pii in parts of southern Thailand)
mai sai nam-taan (without sugar)
sai nam-taan (with sugar)
sai tung (takeaway/to go)
kaafae dam (black coffee)
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