Coffee or Tea in Bangkok? Forget Starbucks

Food — By Kevin Revolinski on March 26, 2010 at 10:06 am

The familiar green logo of Starbucks can be seen in many places in Bangkok and Black Canyon Coffee, its Thai competitor does the usual espresso-laced drinks and sugary frappes. But just like with many of Thailand’s foods, the street versions of coffee and tea should not be missed.

A fishbowl of Thai tea at a seafood grill in Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Thai tea (cha-yen) has a sort of reddish color and a very unique flavor. Though one can get it hot, typically it is served over ice and with condensed milk added giving it more of a creamy orange appearance. Vendors typically overdo the ice, filling the whole cup, but the tea is brewed strong and added hot and some of that ice is intended to dilute it. Watch for the little push carts on the sidewalks.

Many of the tea vendors may also serve some pretty darn good coffee as well. (Be sure not to settle for Nescafe.) Look for the muslin sacks on stainless steel loops that sidewalk baristas use to filter the grounds. The hot coffee is poured over ice along with the condensed milk. Coffee is grown and roasted in Thailand under Royal Patronage and some local coffee shops offer it.

If you are a diabetic, you might want to hold back. Thais like their drinks sweet and often add sugar or simple syrup on top of that sweetened condensed milk to iced teas and coffees.

Check out this handy (and frankly, unnecessary) plastic carrying wrap.

Tags: bangkok, chatuchak, drink, thai coffee, thai tea