Coffee Culture: Thailand
Last week saw the return of one of our favorite features: Coffee Collaboration! Our new host, Clementine, shared a recipe for making Thai Iced Coffee. Check it out here! We love the video so much that it led to a deeper look at Thai coffee culture. We wanted to share that with you in the return of our Coffee Culture blog series!
Thailand's coffee culture is interesting because it's also a major producer! In many cases, because roasting coffee is an expensive endeavor, drinking coffee isn't a part of the lives of the people producing it. Thailand primarily produces robusta beans, which are generally considered lower quality than their Arabica counterparts. This means that much of the coffee produced in Thailand goes towards producing blends and instant coffee. With that said, a push is being made to plant and harvest more Arabica beans. Either way, coffee production remains a rich, historical trade in many Asian countries, and Thailand is not different!
It is exciting, then, that the Thai people love this drink so much too! Coffee shops gained popularity in the 20th century as places to share news and talk politics. Because of the scarcity of televisions and other communication equipment, news traveled by word of mouth up until wider access to the Internet in Thailand. The popularity of these hangouts culturally also led to a love of consuming coffee as well! That's something that remains true to this day. Whether ordering out of a cart or café, coffee lovers in Thailand drink this beverage all day, every day. In this way, coffee consumption in the country is quite similar to the way it's consumed in the West. The main differences come from the way it's roasted and brewed!
But how do they brew?
Kafae Boran (or ancient coffee) is an interesting, unique roasting and brewing method developed in Thailand during WWII. Developed to answer the problem of scarcity, this method involved dark roasting robusta beans with grains, spice, and sugars. Sometimes even soy beans were used in the roast's production! From there, the coffee is brewed with a cotton filter and steeping in boiling water, in a manner similar to tea. Finally, sweetened or condensed milk is generally added to taste. Kafae Boran remained the dominate method of coffee roasting and brewing for decades in Thailand, but was joined by instant coffee. Near the end of the 20th century Starbucks began operating in the country. This led to wider availability of more kinds of culture. Despite this, Kafae Boran remains popular.
One brew method that has found success in America is oliang. The word translates to "black cold," which when applied in this context refers to iced coffee! The Kafae Boran brew method is typically used, with ice being added brewing. From there condensed (gopi) or fresh (yoklo) milk can added. Thai restaurants will frequently add both to create the sweet "Thai Iced Coffee" you might be familiar with. Many street vendors even serve this cool treat in a bag with a straw instead of in a cup!
We hope you've enjoyed this look at how coffee is enjoyed in this wonderful country. We'll have more coffee culture for you soon!