Coffee Culture in Thailand

Mika Kodama

Graduate School of Environment and Energy Engineering, Waseda University



In the past, most coffee houses in Thailand were located at the center of the community where people usually meet, such as markets. Coffee houses served as meeting places where people gathered in the morning and talked about any topic, especially politics. Consequently, the term Sapha Kafae, the morning café group or the coffee forum, was coined and has been used to describe this kind of social gathering at coffee houses. Coffee houses played a significant role in that information such as gossip, political, and economic issues could be collected, exchanged and transmitted to the people in the community.


Today, many coffee house chain companies such as Starbucks, Coffee World and Black Canyon, which offer machine brewed coffee in beautifully decorated shops, can be seen in Bangkok. Further, coffee carts and Ran Kafae Boran (traditional coffee shops) serving Kafae Boran (ancient coffee) can be seen on the street and on the corner at the markets. Since coffee house chain companies were established in Thailand in late 1990’s, two co-existing coffee cultures in Thailand: modern/new coffee culture and traditional/old coffee culture have emerged. In the modern coffee culture, one can see an intermixing of the traditional and modern elements as well as the local and global elements resulting in hybrid features. 


In addition, the new coffee image created by new coffee companies such as Starbucks brought about the modern adaptation of some local and traditional coffee houses. Therefore, the new coffee image is the motivation not only for the emergence of new coffee houses, but also for the hybridization of coffee culture.



(Presented in the International Conference – Thai Food Heritage: Local to Global, 4-6 August 2009, Tawana Bangkok Hotel, Bangkok, organized by The Project of Empowering Network for International Thai Studies (ENITS), Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University with support from the Thailand Research Fund (TRF))