Traditional Thai Coffee, er, Kopi in Trang

Set in an old wooden building, Mr. Thanu’s kopi shop has been open over 70 years. That’s probably enough time for everyone in a town to have heard of any business, but his traditional Thai coffee guaranteed his reputation. I picked up the name from Travelfish and went to check it out.

Mr. Thanu’s shop is on a corner just a couple blocks straight out from the Trang train station. You can’t miss its faded blue-gray-painted wooden doors folded back for business and a scattering of oldsters sipping his signature drink. He used to make it all himself until recent Thai government regulations would have required him to incorporate as a factory. That’s right, he and two other family members roasting coffee would have been treated as equal to a large-scale manufacturing production. So he sold off all the equipment, sadly.

He’d roast the beans with rice and sugar. Despite having Peung translate, the process was all a little difficult to understand. He compared the coffee roasting to asphalt (!) and when I asked how he ground it, he said the machinery heat broke the beans down. Huh? We gave up on that point and moved on.

He roasted everything over a wood fire and the coffee became a little bit famous. He’d ship it around Thailand before the law forced him to just buy it already roasted, but he says that he doesn’t miss that part. The shipping was a hassle and then to try to collect from those who didn’t pay was another headache. But if the law were reversed, he says, he’d go back to doing it the old-fashioned way.

It may not have that added charm of being roasted in the back room, but the coffee is great, iced or hot. Mr. Thanu also serves tea. At one time they served some of the best dim sum in Trang, but rising prices forced him to discontinue that as well. Now the only thing he serves is grilled pork (moo yang), and only in the mornings. Notably, he sells out of that in a heartbeat.

Several old-timers sit around the place, having a bit of tea or kopi and chatting the afternoon away.

Mr. Thanu’s Kopi Shop is two blocks down the street that runs into the train station parking lot (perpendicular to the tracks) and on the left side of the street on a corner. Just one block from Thumrin Hotel.

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2 thoughts on “Traditional Thai Coffee, er, Kopi in Trang

  • June 24, 2012 at 3:35 am
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    Since he’s no longer roasting and grinding his own beans, what makes this coffee so special? Is it something about the way he brews it? The photo of the iced coffee looks as if it has milk in it – are dairy products common in Thailand? Southeast Asia?

    Reply
    • June 24, 2012 at 5:11 am
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      Good questions. Part of it is surely just the charm of his reputation, but he was very specific about a certain regional brand now that lives up to his expectations. Also, Thailand isn’t often thought of as a coffee culture, preferring their sweet tea or using horrible powder mixes and Nescafe. So this ground and cloth filter method is rather unusual except in occasional street carts.

      They use condensed milk to sweeten and cream it up a bit (sometimes too much) and evaporated milk as well. Asia isn’t otherwise very big on dairy – and those Westerners who spend a lot of time there often list cheese as the thing they miss the most! (me too, and French press organic Guatemalan fair trade coffee!)

      Reply

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