5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Thai Coffee Culture

A Rising Star in the Global Coffee Industry

fair trade coffee thailand

When you think of the countries that are major coffee exporters around the globe, places like Columbia and Ethiopia likely come to mind. But over the past 30 years, Thailand has experienced significant growth within their coffee industry, and may soon be commonly known around the world for their unique approach to coffee production.

Read on to learn what makes the emerging coffee culture in Thailand unique, and well worth keeping an eye on into the future.

Coffee Production in Thailand Developed From Efforts to Reduce Drug Trafficking

It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that Thailand started producing coffee on a large scale. Coffee production began as an effort inspired by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to move the country away from opium production, and towards more profitable (and legal) farming practices for the hill tribes of Northern Thailand.

Soil in Northern Thailand: Exceptionally Well-Suited for Growing Coffee

The province of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is known in global coffee growing circles as the “bean belt,” and this is where the magic happens. The Chiang Mai mountains have a unique micro-climate that is perfect for growing coffee. It’s a milder climate compared to the rest of the country, which means lower humidity, shorter monsoon seasons, and an all-around lower temperature that conspire to create ideal coffee growing conditions.

thailand water market

In addition to the ideal climate of Northern Thailand, rainwater from the mountains seeps into the soil, making it rich in mineral content. These natural conditions have come together to make the region ideally suited for many coffee plantations to thrive and to produce high quality coffee.

Coffee That’s Traditionally Ground by Hand

Walk into any coffee shop here in the States, and you’re sure to hear the unmistakable sound of high-powered coffee grinders, crushing beans and preparing them for extraction.

In Thailand, however, grinding coffee beans by hand is an important part of the local coffee culture. If you were to visit the country, you’d be hard pressed to find a cup of coffee that wasn’t hand-ground, “the old fashioned way.”

Whether or not this makes a significant impact on the brewed coffee’s flavor remains to be seen, but it goes to show the level of dedication and respect that’s put toward creating a great cup of coffee.

Most of the Coffee Grown in Thailand Stays There

Although 500,000 60-kilogram bags of coffee beans are produced in Thailand every year, only 7% of that is exported. The unusually small export quantity is a result of high demand from local coffee geeks who take their booming coffee scene seriously.

coffee flowers thai coffee

This relatively new and prosperous coffee culture in Thailand could end up giving Thai coffee a global presence as a highly sought-after bean, similar to the Kona variety that emanates from Hawaii.

Organic and Fair Trade Practices Are on the Rise With Thai Coffee

The growing demographic of Thai coffee connoisseurs is becoming increasingly passionate about high quality, farm to cup coffee, and the local manufacturers have responded accordingly. There are several producers, such as Doi Chaang, that are able to produce coffee at a caliber that demands a fair price on the global market.

A Coffee Region Making a Name for Itself

With a fast-growing local coffee culture focused on organic, farm-to-table Thai coffee production, it’s likely that Thai coffee beans will soon become commonplace in specialty coffee shops around the world. And with any luck, the advent of fair trade and “beyond fair trade” export practices will continue to thrive and become more commonplace in Thailand and beyond.

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