As Thailand’s economy booms, a growing number of farmers in the mountainous northern region are focusing on gourmet coffee. Chiang Mai is undoubtedly the country’s coffee capital, but Bangkok is also on board. A love for coffee and passion for art are often blended, and Gallery Drip Coffee in the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC) is at the cutting edge of a coffee/art renaissance.
A bastion of creativity and community amid the mega-materialism of Siam Square, BACC continues to evolve into an important crossroads for Bangkok’s compelling modern art scene. It was the perfect place for photographers-cum-coffee-connoisseurs Piyachat Trithaworn, or “Pi” for short, and Natthiti Ampriwan, or “A”, to launch their intimate enterprise. These guys do not mess around when it comes to coffee.
While visiting the picturesque northern Thai plantations, the pair were enthralled by the art of coffee — from seed to sip. Pi’s photographic volume available at the cafe, In the Name of Coffee, offers a captivating journey through all aspects of Thailand’s coffee culture. Along with works by other artists, a handful of the owners’ framed shots are presented on the cafe walls, next to shelves that display antique coffee grinders and books with titles like “Expresso Yourself”.
With wall-size windows, black and white wall murals and sturdy wooden stools and tables, the shop’s ambiance is both cosy and bright. Though it draws a stream of artsy regulars, many of whom store their own personal mugs on a designated shelf, the cafe doesn’t feel pretentious or exclusive in the least. Pi was busy grinding and pouring when we arrived on a Sunday, but he made time to walk us through the available coffee selections and brewing techniques.
From raw bean to steaming cup, Gallery Drip’s attention to detail is impeccable. A, Pi and their team start by hand-selecting single source, fair trade coffee beans. In an old building that was once a schoolhouse, they perform all of the roasting themselves. In the cafe, beans are hand ground to a precise consistency for each individual cup. The grinds are then placed in ceramic drip funnels, and water heated to a precise temperature is carefully poured over them. The brew drips gradually into a jar before being cupped and served. This methodical process takes time; sit tight and grab a book while you wait.
Gallery Drip focuses on quality over quantity by offering a small yet carefully chosen selection of gourmet beans that you won’t find elsewhere. Selections change regularly, but you can expect top end northern Thai arabicas like ‘Mae Janti Peaberry’ and ‘Lailee’ to go with a few international choices such as ‘Guatemala Antigua’ and ‘Ethiopia Yirgacheff Blue Nile’. Gallery Drip celebrated its one-year birthday with an ‘Around the World’ blend that combined 13 different beans from various continents. A cup of coffee can cost from 55 to 150 baht — great value when you consider all that goes into it.
Our cup of ‘Mae Janti Peaberry’ was served in a tall handmade ceramic mug with no handle but more than enough girth to keep the hands from burning. The light to medium roasts may come as a surprise to those accustomed to dark roasted European and American brews, but we found it soft, silky and ever so enjoyable with no milk or sugar. This was easily the finest Thai coffee we’ve tasted so far, and it’s proof that northern Thai beans can compete on the world coffee stage.
Although some might think it sacrilege to drink such fine coffee in any form but its purest, Gallery Drip also serves mocha, latte and an interesting coffee jelly topped with foamed milk and sugar syrup. Though we passed on the jelly, we did tuck into a light and delicious slice of coconut cake with a strip of coconut meat that appeared to have been scooped straight from a freshly picked coconut. If coffee isn’t your thing, the cafe also serves tea.
Gallery Drip Coffee is located on the ground floor of the BACC, next to the main entrance and a stone’s throw from exit 3 out of National Stadium BTS station. It’s very popular and seating is limited, so you may need to stand until a table opens up, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.
Address: 1st floor, Bangkok Art & Culture Center, Bangkok
T: (081) 989 5244 , (081) 917 2131
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º31'50.2" E, 13º44'47.75" N
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David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.