18 December 2023

Eight Speciality Coffee Shops To Visit in Chiang Mai

After Bangkok, my next step was Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai province and its neighbour, Chiang Rai, are also some of Thailand's biggest Arabica coffee growing regions so I was looking forward to enjoying even more Thai-grown coffee than in Bangkok. The city also has a very well established speciality coffee scene and I knew I wouldn't have much need for my Aeropress while I was in town. During my stay, I visited excellent eight coffee shops — some of which were already on my list, others I spotted during my wanderings — but I spotted many more that I'd have loved to have visited if I had more time.

Like the coffee shops I visited in Bangkok, many of the Chiang Mai coffee spots were thoughtfully designed, with particular attention to detail to the décor but also the sensory experience of customers and the service. As I mentioned above, there was a lot of Chiang Mai-grown coffee available in the cafés and I enjoyed drinking it, having not consumed much Thai coffee in the past. Prices were similar to what I found in Bangkok: 80 THB (£1.80) or so for a piccolo, with single-origin pourovers running from about 120 to 300 THB (£2.70 to  £6.70). Unlike in Bankok, almost none of the coffee shops featured here accept credit card payments, so bring cash! Several coffee shops had extensive and creative 'signature drink' menus and, better prepared than in Bangkok, I tried a couple in Chiang Mai.

Read on to learn more about the Chiang Mai speciality coffee shops I loved visiting. As always, I've flagged my very favourites with an asterisk below; they have purple icons in my Google Map.

East of the Old City

Gateway Coffee Roasters

I visited Gateway Coffee Roasters on my first afternoon in Chiang Mai, passing it as I walked west from my hotel in the riverside area, along the Tha Phae Road towards the Old City. I spotted the 60-year-old building from across the street — crossing the road took a little longer in the afternoon traffic. The entrance is actually on Chang Moi Road Soi 2: head through the sliding door and upstairs, past the tasting room into the main cafe area. The wooden brew bar and furniture with its colourful pops of teal and sage give the coffee shop a vintage feel. It also seemed like a popular spot for remote workers.

As its name suggests, Gateway Coffee Roasters, which opened in 2018, also roasts coffee in house. There were four single-origin coffees available on the brew bar. I decided to go for the washed Maejam, grown in the Lampang region east of Chiang Mai. Despite everyone in Bangkok telling me it was cold in Chiang Mai, it was 32C that day and I caved and had my filter coffee brewed over ice. The citrus and black tea notes still came out very nicely. They also serve a selection of sweet treats and you can buy retail bags of beans. I didn't realise when I visited, but Gateway is part of the Graph Coffee group, of which more to follow!

Gateway is located at 50300 Chang Moi Road Soi 2 (just off Tha Phae Road). Facebook. Instagram.

Graph Contemporary

Established in 2009, the Graph Coffee group now has seven cafes in Chiang Mai, as well as one in Phuket. The three that I visited (including Gateway Coffee Roasters) each have their own distinctive styles but all three are beautifully designed and serve great coffee. Graph Contemporary, located on Charoen Muang Road to the east of the old city and the river, was one of the closest coffee shops to my hotel, but one of the last I visited in Chiang Mai, after dodging the only rain storm of my trip on my last afternoon. Inside, it's beautiful, from the gleaming metal counter to the large 'living room' style seating area at the back.

The coffee menu was just as impressive. Having already had a 'standard' pourover at Graph Ground, I decided to dive into the signature drink menu. I was still trying to cool down after hiking the Monk's Trail that morning and so wanted something cool. Graph No 17 spoke to me: nitro cold brew with tomato and lime. Now, tomato may not be the obvious flavour pairing with coffee — quite the opposite, in fact — but Graph found the perfect balance between the smooth and low acidity cold brew and the tart tomato and lime. It worked really well. Plus, it looked beautiful.

Graph also has one of the best selections of merch I've seen, from bags I would actually use and hats I would wear, to beautifully designed retail coffee packaging. If you're in Chiang Mai and looking for a gift for the coffee lover in your life, Graph has you covered!

Graph is located at 177 Charoen Muang Road and other locations. Website. Instagram.


A short walk from my hotel on Chiang Mai-Lamphun Soi 1, just across from the River Ping, Khagee was the first coffee shop I hit up during my stay in Chiang Mai. The décor is vintage and minimalist and the staff were super-friendly. 

For my coffee, I ordered a flat white, brewed with the seasonal espresso blend, which had lovely sweet caramel notes and latte art that lasted all the way down to the bottom. As well as roasting their own coffee, in conjunction with Bangkok-based Samadool Coffee, they bake their own bread and bagels. As I arrived at lunchtime, this was the perfect opportunity to order the house-baked baguette with smoked salmon, which was delicious.

Khagee is located at 29–30 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Soi 1. Facebook. Instagram.


khna Coffee Brewers wasn't on my radar before I arrived in Chiang Mai but as it was almost directly opposite my hotel, I discovered it pretty quickly and went there twice for my morning coffee. Located near Wat Ket Karam and the River Ping, the coffee shop is bigger than it looks, with its wooden coffee bar, teeny roaster and a seating area on the ground floor, as well as another seating area upstairs. I loved the vintage Japanese-style décor and the baristas were lovely and very welcoming. They also welcomed the challenge of making my second piccolo in my 4oz KeepCup!

khna roasts their own coffee in small batches on site. Sustainability and traceability are a big part of what they do and their retail coffee comes in home-compostable packaging. While I was there, they had two single-origin coffees available as a filter coffee, but I opted for piccolos on both visits, brewed with their espresso blend. And very beautifully brewed they were too. The cafe was also a wonderfully calm place to sit and enjoy my morning coffee, away from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai.

knha is located at 150 Charoen Raj Road. Facebook. Instagram.

* Ministry of Roasters

Ministry of Roasters was another coffee shop that hadn't made it into my Google Map before my visit. I walked past its stunning large cafe at the end of my first day in Chiang Mai. It had already closed for the day but I made an immediate note to self to return as soon as possible. Ministry of Roasters' main base is in Bangkok but if that location is even half as impressive as the Chiang Mai coffee shop, it's doing well! 

It's a real shrine to all of the senses: from the appealingly wiggly metal coffee bar, to the perfume diffusers with coffee beans that allow you to select your coffee based on the aroma and especially the depiction of the various coffee flavour profiles around the cafe. It's no surprise that they also do a lot of barista training and coffee education here and if you ever need to buy a gift for a coffee roaster or cafe owner, they have some great options.

For once I was bamboozled by the menu. I couldn't choose between ordering a 'straightforward' coffee drink and a 'signature drink' so I went for both. Even ordering my piccolo came with more choices. There were five different espresso options — they helpfully displayed them all in a coffee flavour wheel to help you choose. I went for a juicy/fruity option and it was perfectly brewed. As for the signature drink, I ordered the Black Pink: cold brew with pink guava, lychee and a lime slice. I'd go as far as to say that it was one of my all-time favourite coffee drinks — so refreshing and perfectly balanced. I wish I'd been able to try some more of the signature drinks and regular coffees — and to buy some Ministry of Roasters beans too!

Ministry of Roasters is located at Chang Moi Soi 2 (and in Bangkok). Website. Facebook. Instagram.

Old City

* Akha Ama

Akha Ama is one of the OGs of the Chiang Mai speciality coffee scene — it's been around since 2010. Its Rachadamnoen Road location is a short walk from Wat Phra Singh making it a great place to cool off and caffeinate after visiting some of the Old City's temples and other sights. When the other attendees of the Thai cooking class I took asked our teacher for recommendations, this is where he suggested. He has good taste in speciality coffee shops!

As is becoming a theme in this blog, the design is gorgeous, from the red-brick exterior, nestled among the leafy greenery, to the huge, curving coffee bar inside, that spirals up to the mezzanine level in an S-shape. There were an impressive 13 different coffees on the menu, six more special single origins and seven 'standard'. I chose the honey process Liger coffee for my piccolo, which had really sweet melon and blueberry notes. As I was there for breakfast, I also had some banana bread, which paired nicely with my coffee. They also sell bags of retail coffee and some speciality instant coffee pouches. Alas, I was running too short of cash at this point to pick up any of the latter.

Akha Ama is located at 175 2 Rachadamnoen Road and other locations. WebsiteInstagram.


Graph Ground

I didn't spend much time in Nimman, a hip and studenty neighbourhood west of the Old City, which has lots of cafes, eateries and shops, including a durian cafe if that's your jam. But I did make it to Graph Coffee's roastery, which is called Graph Ground. Located in an old warehouse-style building (seen more clearly in the photo at the top of this blog), the spacious cafe has a beautiful tiled green coffee bar at its centre. You pass through a teal blue curtain to get inside, giving it a more exclusive feel. It was really busy during my visit and all except one of the tables opposite the counter were full. I nabbed a table at the end, next to the roasting room where some roasting was indeed going on, and then pondered the menu.

I saved the signature drinks for my visit to sister location, Graph Contemporary, and focused my attentions on the hand-brewed pourover menu. There were three coffees available, all from northern Thailand. I chose the Khun Chang Kian from Chiang Mai, a washed coffee that was complex but very enjoyable, with floral, strawberry and tropical fruit flavours, especially as it cooled.

Graph is located at 141 Siri Mangkalajarn Road and other locationsWebsiteInstagram.

Ristr8to Original

Ristr8to has been serving up outstanding latte art — and creative spelling! — since 2011. As well as their cafe on Nimmanahaeminda Road, they also have a roastery/lab nearby called Roast8ry (what else?). I stopped by at the end of a long day and although I don't usually order lattes — too much milk for me — when I saw how impressive the latte art was here, especially in larger drinks, I went ahead and ordered the Satan Latte. And yes, the latte art was really impressive and long-lasting too, making it all the way down to the bottom of the cup. It tasted great too, with a sweet and balanced flavour, and well worth the pains of the extra lactose!

Late on a Friday afternoon, Ristr8to was still bustling. There are a bunch of tables outside, at the front, as well as those in the black-and-wood interior.

Ristr8to Original is located at 15/3 Nimmanahaeminda Road. Facebook. Instagram.

Found this post useful? Please consider supporting my blog by buying me a coffee.

No comments:

Post a Comment