One of my favorite things about Thailand are all the cute coffee shops. While Thai people themselves aren’t really much of coffee drinkers(comparatively speaking), trendy coffee shops with pretty menus and Instagram-worthy fare are everywhere. Even in my little town we have a bunch of coffee shops, with 3 in particular that come close to the “trendy” mark.
One of many trendy coffee shops in Chiang Mai.
While most are “coffee shops” they aren’t really the same as American or European coffee shops. Their menus usually consist mostly of lattes spiked with carnation, and misleading drink menu items that are filled with sugar. Once I was excited to find normal “lemon tea” only to find that it was actually just warmed up Nestea powder, and of course filled with sugar. Multiple times I’ve tried to order Green Tea, only to be served a latte with sugar, covered in whipped cream, and doused with a heavy serving of Carnation.
Carnation is a product you may have seen in the baking aisle in the US. It’s sweetened condensed milk, commonly used in baking items like fudge. It’s basically sugar and fat mixed together in a can. Thai people eat an absurd amount of sugar, and they put Carnation in everything. The infamous Thai iced tea includes Carnation, along with almost everything you see on a Thai coffee shop menu, unless it’s been altered to suit foreigners. I’ve learned to order things Mai Carnation, meaning without Carnation, because personally I can’t stand the stuff. But to each their own. I’ve even seen street vendors selling corn mixed with Carnation as a dessert.
But enough of my rant on Carnation. Some shops, especially in larger cities, have managed to perfect the Western-style of doing coffee, including beautiful latte art and strong espresso. They also usually offer an Instagram-worthy food menu, with many varieties of toast and other sweets. I’ve decided to start reviewing coffee shops post by post, so here’s my first go.
It Happened to be a Closet – Sukhumvit(near Soi 23), Bangkok
This coffee shop is really more of a café/nice evening restaurant, but their coffee menu is superb, along with their desserts, so I’d recommend going for coffee. Plus it’s pricey as hell, but still fun to go just to see the interior decorating.
I literally stumbled onto this café, it was down the street from my hostel one weekend in Bangkok. At first I was under the impression that it was a boutique (“It Happened to be a Closet”?), but after passing people sipping coffee and nibbling on cake in their Lewis Carroll-esque garden, I decided to head there for coffee one morning.
The first thing you notice upon entering is the dessert display case, filled with absolutely gorgeous western-style pastries and cakes. In Thailand it’s hard to find pastries that are on the same level as Western pastries, and much harder to find pastries that surpass them.
Then you notice the decoration. It feels like you’ve been sucked into the house of Alice in Wonderland gone Martha Stewart. Every few feet you find new whimsical wallpaper, and the furniture is a gloriously mismatched collection of vintage pieces. Stuffed swans sit a few feet away from lush velvet curtains, but somehow it all works and doesn’t look tacky. Each table has a slightly different theme, with different furniture and different décor. It must’ve taken the ower years of collecting vintage furniture and knick-knacks to create this place, because every inch was detailed with some kind of interesting item.
The dopest wallpaper I ever did see.
My favorite part of the décor was a small pool, taken up almost entirely by an inflatable black-swan. It was interesting that they created what appeared to be an actual mini-swimming pool, not a pond, and smacked it in the middle of everything for decoration. 10/10.
The restaurant/café/coffee shop/whatever you’d call it also had boutique sections, selling unique clothing items, an array of small antiques, and other home décor-pieces. It really was a whimsical hodge podge of everything.
Now back to the actual eating part. As soon as we sat down we were handed iPads that were set on a Facebook page that served as the menu. Each section of the menu was a different photo album. While it was nice to see what was being served, I thought this was a little bit of overkill, but whatever.
We ordered the cheapest items on the menu, lattes and scones. My latte was actually amazing, it DID NOT come with Carnation OR added sugar, and it was a glorious moment. The first real Western latte I’ve found since getting to Asia. The scones were good as well, however unfortunately they were served with whipped cream instead of clotted cream. Oh well, they almost nailed it.
I also definitely can’t wait to go back, even though a measly scone and latte set me back 380 baht. It was worth every penny.
I’ll definitely be posting some more coffee shop reviews soon, there’s just wayyyy too many to properly discuss each one in one post. Thanks for reading!!!