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Life in Chiang Mai


Coffee shops for those who don’t like coffee!

By Tom Long

The other day, some visitors and I were somewhat perplexed in a Chiang Mai coffee shop. The thing that caused all the trouble was that we wanted to order a simple cup of coffee – no easy thing to achieve, in those coffee shop chains we have all over the place here, like Starbucks.

Well, now, to start with there is apparently no such thing as a large cup. We were told they didn’t have large cups, only ‘’tall.” In fact, these were huge – about the size of those table-top rubbish bins they put out at breakfast in German hotels. Enormous though they were, their contents were so milky and frothy that there was very little taste of coffee apparent. Mind you, if that bucket (sorry, ‘’tall” drink ) really was full of strong coffee, you’d end up pole dancing on their lamp stands from the caffeine jolt!

We found out that they don’t have small cups either – only ‘’short.” If you are not up-to-date with their own special and weird lingo, then it becomes difficult to order anything.

And what about the type of coffee you prefer – would that be ‘’blonde roast” (whatever that is)? The names they give to many of these bucket-sized frothy drinks often gives little clue as to what might actually be in them, other than the over-sweet flavorings. What type of coffee is a ‘’toffee nut latte,” or a ‘’peppermint mocha,”’ we wondered? But the server – sorry, ‘’barista” – had no more clue about that, than we did! One thing is sure: there’s no shortage of sweetness in most of them.

If Americans consume one of two of these sweetened buckets of froth each day, it can be no surprise that the US is one of the obesity capitals of the world!

Try attempting to get a teenage local, with weak English skills, who works there to explain the differences between their Anniversary blend, Autumn blend, Christmas blend, or even Komodo Dragon blend! Since this is a coffee-growing region of Thailand, we looked – but in vain - for a Chiang Mai blend, though they had a large variety of offerings from elsewhere. You can have Viennese, Sumatran, Kenyan, Antiguan, French or Italian – but not Thai!

The sugary snacks that they serve up (at high prices) to go along with these buckets of sweetened froth are themselves very unhealthy, very fattening. Cake slices are gigantic, and even the cookies are as big as a saucer, though thicker.

Not knowing what to order from this apparently caffeine-free extensive list of ‘’beverages,” we decamped to a more local establishment to enjoy hearty small cups of aromatic Chiang Rai coffee, without all the nonsense – and without having to mortgage the house to pay, either!

It seems these international chains of so-called coffee shops serve mostly those who don’t actually like the real taste of coffee!

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Coffee shops for those who don’t like coffee!