Coffee From Thailand May Be the Next Big Thing in Specialty Coffee
When most people think of Thai coffee, the first thing that comes to mind is undoubtedly the concentrated drip coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk that’s served in just about every Thai restaurant in the United States, along side Thai iced tea and brewed jasmine tea.
It may surprise many Americans to find out that Thailand actually produces a tremendous amount of coffee for both domestic consumption and export. Thai-produced coffee is a growing agri-business for the country, and Thai coffee is beginning to get the type of international attention that it deserves.
Where Coffee Is Grown in Thailand
Thailand produces more than eighty thousand tons of Robusta coffee on its southern coffee plantations every year. Additionally, growers in the Chiang Mai province and other hilly parts of Northern Thailand produce roughly five hundred tons of Arabica beans each year.
The Thai royal family initiated the farming of Arabica coffee in Thailand’s portion of the golden triangle, as a way for farmers to make money without farming opium poppies. Now, roughly twenty thousand pounds of robusta is processed into powdered instant coffee for domestic consumption, while the overwhelming majority of the Arabica crop is shipped overseas.
Thai Coffee: Some of the Most Complex Coffee Around
The Arabic growers of the hill country surrounding Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai province produce some of the most complex tasting coffee in the world. Due to the mineral content of the soil, the shifting climate of Thailand, and their propensity for full fermentation of the coffee cherries, Thai coffee is relatively unique in all the world.
The coffee cherries are picked at a uniform ripeness, soaked to soften their pulp, and then left to ferment or ripen in the sun. This natural fermenting process yields coffee beans, as it does in other growing regions where it is practiced, that when properly roasted and brewed provide a complex, rich, layered finished product.
Layered with residual sweetness, accompanying acidity, and a deep mineral complexity, Thai-produced coffee has to be tasted to be believed.
Thai Coffee: Worth Seeking Out and Worth the Price
Thai coffee can be extremely hard to find in the United States at this time. However, if you frequent your local Asian specialty market, you can easily procure powdered, pre-sweetened robusto coffee from the South of Thailand.
But if you want the Arabica beans that are being produced in the hill country of the North, then you will most likely need to find a specialty coffee broker who deals directly with Thai coffee producers, which is what we do at the Exotic Bean. You can find information on our imported Thai coffee here.
For some, one of the great pleasures of drinking this exceedingly good coffee may come from knowing that you’re in on something before most of the world has discovered it. Unfortunately, such experiences usually come with an inflated price tag. In the case of Thai Arabica coffee, the price most definitely seems to be worth it.
[Photos Via: CMHike; USA Today; TravelFish]