If you’re going to have a coffee in Bangkok, it’s good to get there early. At least, that’s my take on it, since I prefer my coffee hot, while the outside temperature in the Thai capital by mid morning is better suited to smoothies or other cool drinks.
Of course, Anita got round that problem with a big iced coffee at the Gallery Drip Coffee bar in Bangkok.
I was a bit hesitant about making this coffee shop our first port of call because I prefer to start my day with a cappuccino or other espresso-based coffee and I feared that Gallery Drip just might be all to do with drip coffee!
It is, but this is a great coffee shop and if you look at my coffee with hot milk, you’d barely know it wasn’t a cappuccino.
Gallery Drip Coffee is on the ground floor of Bangkok’s Art & Culture Centre (BACC). If you’re looking for it and happen to enter on a higher floor of this building, don’t be diverted to one of the other coffee shops on the way down, as we almost were. Gallery Drip is worth waiting for.
The coffee shop itself is not air conditioned – which can be a bit of a drawback in such a hot city – but they have fans, and if you take one of the seats on the outside of the coffee shop, you can benefit from the gallery/mall air conditioning.
What I liked most about this place, apart from the taste of the coffee, was that they go for coffee grown as locally as possible. So we had a blend of Thai coffee, grown near Chiang Mai (which is apparently their all-year-round coffee), and a bean from nearby Laos.
And because this is all about drip coffee, they grind each cup individually, making every coffee a personal creation or work of art by the baristas there.
A coffee shop like this in the UK or America might tend to be a bit snobby about their coffee and how they make it, but the guys running Gallery Drip were both friendly and approachable. In fact, when I began to chat with Reggie (a DC expat now living in Bangkok), they began to join in, even offering us other brews to taste. These are genuine coffee lovers who love to engage with others who enjoy their cup of Joe.
Reggie was also a great source of ideas for where else to go for coffee in Bangkok. I had a list of places recommended by others on social media, but we either couldn’t find these, they were too far away from where we were staying or were closed on the days we were in town.
So we ended up for our second Bangkok coffee at a wonderful place called Ink & Lion.
This is not the easiest place to find, if you don’t know it or aren’t familiar with Bangkok’s strange street naming methods. Its address is 1/6 Ekamai 2, Sukhumvit 63.
Basically we walked up and down Sukhumvit 63 street several times before resorting to asking some guys in a London pie shop (yes, really, in Bangkok!), and it just happened that one of them knew the place.
Their description, and the best guide to getting there for now at least (December 2014) is behind the derelict Irish pub at the start of Sukhumvit 63.
I loved their coffee options, with two blends on offer for the espresso machine: one just had Thai coffee in it; the other a fantastic mix of Thai, Indonesian, Brazilian and Ethiopian. Or they had a whole range of single origins if you wanted your coffee made by some other non-espresso method.
There had been quite a mix of westerners and locals in Gallery Drip, but in Ink and Lion, we were the only westerners there, suggesting that Bangkok is developing its own indigenous coffee scene.
Ink & Lion is quite an arty place and the owners apologised that we were visiting in between exhibitions, as their walls are normally covered in local artists’ work. But we’d guessed as much given the selection of arty magazines lying around on the shelves alongside the chess sets laid out for customers’ use…
If you’re into American-sized muffins and other cakes, you might at first think there isn’t a lot to eat here at Ink & Lion, but actually their mini scones and cheesecake are both delicious and filling.
And finally, how did they get such an unusual name? Well, the ink is linked to the arty scene the owners come from, as well as being the colour of coffee. And the lion is the motif on their rather attractive Marzocco espresso machine.
Oh, and if you’re heading that way, please note that they are not open on Wednesdays.
So, we can’t claim to have reviewed the Bangkok coffee scene, with only two coffee shops visited out of the many places that have opened in the last five or so years.
But we were delighted with what we did find. We loved the fact that both venues are run by locals and both used coffee grown locally. And they both combined quality with friendliness, something that can be hard to find at times.
And thanks also to Reggie from DC (yes we shared a love for Swings and Peregrine Coffee in Washington) for his great conversation and tremendous coffee tips. Just a shame we didn’t get to try more of them!