For a coffee lover like me, Chiang Mai is one of the “must visit”-places in the world. It feels as if there is a coffee shop around every corner. But Chiang Mai has not always been famous for its coffee scene. The so-called Golden Triangle, of which Thailand was part, was famous for a different type of crop – opium. Later on, tourists flocked the city to visit temples, explore Thailand’s long history or – more recently – indulge in the Yogi-/hippie-/digital nomad lifestyle of Thailand’s second largest city.
It is challenging to limit it to just a few highlights when it comes to my top cafés in Chiang Mai. But here are my favourites:
This coffee shop is located in the trendy (Hipster-) area Nimmanhemin and its founders’ Australian influence cannot be denied. It was founded in 2011 and several of its baristas have participated and won barista competitions in Thailand and abroad. The café has an indoor area which is decorated in clean white and black with wooden furniture. I personally enjoyed the terrace – it is perfect for people watching while enjoying your coffee.
Ristr8to’s menu is vast – from the standard coffees to types which are rarely seen on coffee menus in Asia such as the Spanish cortado. One of their signature coffees is served in a skull-shaped glass. I enjoyed the cappuccino and piccolo latte. The coffee is not too bitter and deserves to rank high across all the blogs about coffee in Chiang Mai. The prices range from BHT 80-100 (about EUR 2.40-3.00 and USD 2.60-3.30). Ristr8to itself only serves coffee. But there is a pastry/cake corner where you can get your sugar fix.
(Ristr8to now has multiple branches but the original one is in 15/3 Nimmanhemin Road.)
2. Graph Café
I stumbled upon this cute café by accident. My friend and I had dinner at David’s Kitchen and the manager recommended Graph Café as one of his favourite places. The website describes the shop as minimalist – and it is minimalist indeed. Graph Café is hidden away in a residential area in the North-East part of Chiang Mai’s Old Town. It only has three to four tables inside. But the coffee will not disappoint you.
The name refers to when the owners started their first café in Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanaburi, close to the border to Myanmar in 2009. They describe their journey there as going up and down, taking turns – just as our lives. But as long as we are moving, everything will be fine. This branch closed in 2014 when the founders opened up Graph Café in Chiang Mai.
I had a cappuccino and really enjoyed. I would say it comes close to Ristr8to’s. Prices are about the same as Ristr8to’s as well. Graph has another concept called “Table” which serves food as well. It is located near the original “Graph” in Moonmuang Soi 6. Graph Café also expanded into a branch at One Nimman Mall. However, I prefer the charm of the original over the one in an artificial mall setting.
(25/1 Rajvithi Lane 1; Note: Leave the car at the main street and walk to Graph)
I was on my way to Graph when I discovered this place. It is really nice if you need a quiet spot to work. I had an iced cappuccino – usually, I prefer hot coffee but that day, I had been out in the 34-degree-heat and needed something refreshing. Hence, I cannot judge the quality of the coffee to much – as you may know, the iced versions are usually very diluted. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and I found their presentation very cute, especially the note explaining more about the beans in my coffee. The iced coffee was around BHT 90 (about EUR 2.70 and USD 3.00)
upto.coffee is one of the lesser known cafés and it is a nice place to relax or work – or to simply escape the Instagram crowds.
(10/5 Moon Muang Soi 5)
Similar to Ristr8to, Akha Ama ranks high on many coffee rankings and blogs. La Fattoria is their branch in the Old Town which is a convenient spot for a break in between temple hopping and shopping. Their iced lattes are very popular but I actually enjoyed the cappuccino more. (Probably because of my preference for hot coffee.)
Their oatmeal cookies are to die for. I am usually not a fan of American-style cookies but these are delicious. Definitely have them with your coffee.
Apart from tasty coffee and cookies, the company history is very interesting. The name goes back to one mother in the remote village of Maejantai. “Ama” means “mother” in the local Akha language. This mother had the vision to produce coffee and managed to convince her village to do so. She is now the face of the Akha Ama logo.
When Akha Ama Coffee was founded, the family decided to cut out middlemen who offered a low price for the cherries and parchment coffee. Instead, they marketed the coffee themselves and also moved towards a sustainable multi-crop system with reduced chemical fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides.
5. Cafés to Be Explored
I still have many coffee shops on my list to explore during my future trips to Chiang Mai. Among them is Akha Ama Living Factory North of Chiang Mai.
I passed by two café which I will definitely try next time: Burkta Coffee, which is located next to a coworking/creative space and Doppio Coffee in Thapae Road. I especially look forward to the latter and will update this article after my visit.
Have you been to Chiang Mai? What are your favourite cafés? Anything I absolutely need to try?
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the personal visit of Elisabeth Steiger and the information provided at the location and the official websites of cafés. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended places above.