As coffee shops are often our go-to places to get some work done, we’ve spent our fair share of time in cafes, sitting in front of our laptops with a hot (usually iced for Macrae) cup of coffee in our hands. Thailand, like many countries we’ve visited, has a ridiculous number of coffee shops. It often leaves you wondering how they all manage to stay in business.
We’ve come across some interesting cafes throughout the whole of Thailand but none that serve a coffee as delicate and smooth as those of the North. There is something magical about the mountain coffee bean in that region.
While touring up there we had the pleasure of visiting some great places that not only serve up a mean cup of coffee but usually ended up surprising us with the quality of their food and baked goods. We found a few cafes in Northern Thailand that we just had to tell everyone about!
Losing Yourself In a Cup of Thai Coffee – Best Cafes in Northern Thailand
There are many cafes that we stumbled upon, and many more to be found, but we’ve listed the top 5 cafes in northern Thailand that stood out for us, starting with number 5 and working our way to, what we think, is the best. All of these can be found in the north of Thailand, be it Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and, let’s not forget, Pai.
#5 Café Amazon
Amazon Cafe is a great spot to go for a quick morning coffee or a stop during a long scooter ride when nothing else is around. Cafe Amazon has a convenient number of locations across Thailand, usually as standalone shops around gas stations along major roads and highways. Fill up on gas and get your coffee fix at the same time. The coffee is pretty good but we didn’t end up trying any of their attractive looking baked goods.
#4 Pai Siam Bistro, Pai
It’s as though there is some kind of force from the gods that brings people to visit, and fall in love with, Pai. It may be because it is a quiet town surrounded by mountains and gorgeous rice paddy fields, or that the journey to this place, from Chiang Mai to Pai, is a treacherous drive through the mountains that makes it seem like all other forms of civilization are beyond physical reach.
Finding Pai Siam in this sleepy town was a godsend. With its delicious cakes and cookies, it brewed, in our mind, some of the best coffee around. We even found out about the affiliated beautiful boutique hotel, Soi One Bedrooms, while we were there and enjoyed a blissful last night in town. You could truly lose yourself in the peace and serenity of Pai and like many that have traveled here, you may find yourself staying for a very long time.
#332 Coffee Hill, Off Hwy 1095 to Pai
During our 762 hair-raising turns through the mountains to Pai we chose to stop at 32 Coffee Hill for a break. This place offers some amazing local coffee, fruit shakes and some truly incredible views of the mountains.
The only way of ensuring a visit to this café is by navigating your own way to Pai – either by renting a car or a motorbike. Keep in mind that f you take a minibus from Chiang Mai to Pai your chances of stopping here are slim-to-none as they stop infrequently. This is a great place to take a break from the drive and grab some coffee, made from those delicious mountain coffee beans, before continuing on your way.
#2 Namton’s House Bar, Chiang Mai
While staying at the chic Swiss Lanna Lodge in Chiang Mai, Namton’s House Bar was recommended as a great place to eat. It was clear upon entering, that Namton’s has mastered the trendy-meets-comfort feel. Patrons are warmly welcomed even if just stopping for a coffee (iced of course) or a drink after a long day behind a computer. We would recommend it for more than just that – the food at Namtons is exquisite.
The chef, “M”, is self-taught, loves his job and has a passion for food that shows through his culinary work. The menu is inspired by Japanese cuisine and each dish is a flavourful, delicious plate of perfection. If you’re looking for great coffee in Chiang Mai, you’ve found the place, but if you venture to order something off the menu, you won’t be staying for just one cup.
#1 Polar Boulangerie and Patisserie, Chiang Rai
After a long day of riding to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai on our trusty steed (150cc SkyDrive Scooter) we opened up the TripAdvisor app (like every other time we didn’t feel like venturing out and finding a place on our own to eat) and right at the top, rated #1 for breakfast restaurants, was Polar Boulangerie and Patisserie, we found it intriguing that a cafe was ranked #1 and we just had to check it out.
Walking in it looked similar to every other cafe we have ever been to: cookies and cake in their baked goods counter display, a chalkboard menu and some smartly placed decor. We ordered some breakfast, tea and iced coffee. The breakfast was great – it was a western style spread – and the tea and coffee was exceptional.
What stood out was the coffee, just like everything else here, is reasonably priced and you get more than what you would expect. The iced coffee comes in a mason jar – yes like the one your grandmother used to jar her homemade jam. Now that’s enough coffee to get you through the whole day! There is no fluke that this is #1 on TripAdvisor.
Our Continuing Quest For Great Coffee
We continue our search for good coffee in every town and city we visit and love when we find a cafe that not only satisfies our craving for a great cup of java but is also a place we feel we need to recommend to others. You can definitely expect to find more suggestions on cafes and who knows, you may even bump into us!
Ours is considered a digital nomad life. We move from place to place bringing our work with us as we go. We generally don’t know what it will be like when we head to a new place and usually rely on coffee shops as good places to do work and connect to WiFi – our mobile offices around the world. Sometimes, when we step inside a coffee shop, set up our computers and take a sip from our mugs we feel like we’ve stepped outside the often crazy world of travel and the unknown and we feel a bit like we are home.
Travelling in northern Thailand and looking for a great cup of coffee? You can find the above mentioned cafes at the following locations:
Amazon Cafe – All over northern Thailand, usually at rest-stops and gas stations
32 Coffee Hill – You’ll find 32 Coffee Hill on your way to Pai from Chiang Mai along highway 1095. For GPS coordinates use: 195 Moo 4 T.Papae, Chiang Mai Ban Pa Pae 50150
Namton’s House Bar – this great coffee shop and restaurant can be found at 196/2, Chiangmai-Lumpuhn Road, Muang, Chiang Mai East of the Ping River.
Polar Boulangerie and Patisserie – While in Chiang Rai, you can locate our, and TripAdvisor’s, number 1 place to find coffee at: 366-366/1 Trairath Rd. T. Viang A. Muang Chiangrai, Chiang Rai