Akha Ama – Chiang Mai (TH)

Is this exemplary coffee roasting business creating the fourth wave of specialty coffee? Its privileged location certainly makes it possible

  • opening times:
    Mon - Sun: 8 - 18
  • wifi:
    Yes
  • urls:
    FacebookWebsite
  • price check:
    Espresso: ฿50 / Flat White: ฿50/ Filter: ฿50
  • machine:
    Kees van der Westen Spirit
  • coffees on offer:
    Various

Chiang Mai is known for the tasty curry noodle soup ‘kaoh soi’ and the hundreds of ancient temples that are scattered around the old town. However that is all starting to change these days, where more people are coming to the town to enjoy its blossoming coffee culture.

When I talked to Akha Ama founder Lee Ayu earlier this year, he pointed out that what’s going in Chiang Mai could actually be considered the fourth wave of coffee. Only few places in the world have the same level of interaction between coffee shop owners and farmers. That is of course due to Chiang Mai’s location, only one hour’s drive away from the closest coffee plantation.

Bar and staff

Bar and staff

Akha Ama is perhaps Thailand’s most exciting coffee company. The social enterprise, which is named after the Akha tribe, was started by Lee Ayu in 2009 to help his hill tribe community to sell their beans at a fair price. In recent years the company has really taken off. Two busy cafes and a production of 35 tons of coffee a year bears witness to that.

Ayu has been training with Stumptown Coffee Roasters in recent years, and that’s starting to become evident in the roast level of the beans – they are way lighter compared to the standard Thai bean. However that’s not the only reason Akha Ama coffee is delicious. In fact Akha farmers are the most skilled in Thailand, being able to grow true Arabica varieties such as Catuai and Typica in favor of the lower quality, but disease-resistant Catimor.

View from outside

View from outside

Akha Ama’s original café in the Santitham neighborhood is a charming place, however the newer one has a top of the line Spirit from Kees van der Westen and it’s way easier to access with its central location on Rachadamnoen Road – the main road through the old town. I’d make that one my main priority to visit. After all Akha Ama is a place you go to get the truly unique locally grown coffee rather than to soak up the atmosphere.

When you’re there make sure to grab some of the company’s single-origin coffee, which is truly single-origin. On the bag of beans, there’s even a pencil sketch of the farmer and name along with essential information about the bean variety.

Coffees on offer

Coffees on offer

Akha Ama is a great example for other regions to follow. It’s not just a social enterprise, which of course is great, but the company is also pushing the standards of the local coffee scene when it comes to quality and new ideas.

Guest café review by Chiang Mai-based blogger Asser Bøggild Christensen. Check out his website Hipsterkaffe.dk

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