Samui Wining & Dining
A Day in the Life of …

Khun Joy, a barista and waitress at Black Canyon in Xin City, Chaweng.


9Samui is an island which has just about everything. You’ll find miles of pristine beaches, completely unspoiled and without even a Coca-Cola sign. There are jungle glades and clearings in the mountains with cascading waterfalls which time seems to have overlooked. But if you’re after more lively distractions then Chaweng will keep you occupied for days. It’s a shopaholic’s paradise and there are more restaurants than you can shake a French stick at. There are eateries and drinkeries sprouting out of the woodwork and even trendy plate glass and chromium coffee shops. You’ll find all the familiar international brand-names in evidence. But you’ll also find Thai brands, too. And one of these is Black Canyon.


Black Canyon (Thailand) Co., Ltd., as it’s formally known, is Thailand’s very own coffee shop brand and franchise. It was formed in 1993 to cater in the first instance for the increasing Thai love of all things American; coffee and the associated social moirés included. But, almost 20 years on, it’s evolved into a solid brand name that not only inspires confidence but compels folks to cross the road and enter. And on top of this, it’s grown rapidly and now has more than 190 branches all over the Kingdom. But, more significantly, it has exported itself and now has branches in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and the United Arab Emirates, too.


Unlike some franchises which are available, Black Canyon has been prudent and controlled its outlets to maximise desirability. They are hard to come by. The first (and only) Black Canyon outlet on Samui was secured by Khun Anchalee Keeratiwithayanon, who introduced the name to the mall inside the first Tesco-Lotus superstore in Chaweng. Since which time, she’s ridden on the steed of success with additional branches in each of the new Tesco-Lotus stores in Lamai and Nathon. But the latest addition breaks away from the formula. There’s now a branch of Black Canyon which stands proudly on its own, is on two floors with a bar and outside balcony and is smack-bang in the centre of Chaweng. It’s part of the prestigious ‘Xin City’ complex that’s almost next to Soi Green Mango and has a prime position, fronting Chaweng Beach Road. And this is where young Khun Joy (formally known as Khun Chanchira Ganjanachat) comes to work each day.


Khun Joy is a bubbly and outgoing young woman who’s just seen her 17th birthday. And, like so many of the Thai people working on Samui, she’s not a native. She was born in Sri Saket in the extreme North-East of the Kingdom – just about the closest place to the Cambodian border you can be. Her mother had already sought the new employment pastures of Samui and, when she left school, Khun Joy followed in her wake. She began by working as a trainee at the branch in Chaweng’s Tesco-Lotus. But her quick mind, pleasant personality and, more to the point, her uncomplaining reliability and conscientiousness prompted Khun Anchalee to offer her a transfer to the new Xin City branch. Needless to say Khun Joy was overjoyed and accepted.


Her duties are varied and diverse. Waiting on the tables is straightforward enough, but it takes reliability and trust before anyone is allowed to work as cashier. Khun Joy has earned her place and has already qualified for this. But, in keeping with the philosophy at Black Canyon, employees are stretched and challenged and encouraged to make the most of themselves. As a result of this, last September she went off to Bangkok to train as a barista – something which the Group takes very seriously. It’s arduous, intensive and specialised: one of the tests being to differentiate between the taste of Indonesian coffee beans and those from South America. She returned after qualifying with flying colours, and now you’ll find her working the big shiny espresso machines at the Xin City branch. But, trained, qualified and competent as she is, she prefers it when they’re short on the serving staff!


Except for the trainees, no-one really has a precise job description,” she explained shyly. “If somebody is away sick, or when we’re really busy, then everybody simply works together and joins-in until things get quieter. Quite often, the baristas will help-out on the floor with taking orders and waiting on the tables. And, to be honest, I like this the most. I’m on the move, talking to different people and going backwards and forwards and quite often sharing jokes and having a lot of fun. I don’t think I’d like to only make coffee every single day!


But as well as the impromptu general helping-out Khun Joy does have a clearly-defined role to fulfil. Being a barista has responsibilities and also a certain kudos. She needs to maintain the machines, regularly cleaning them and changing the filters. This is something that the company insists is handled twice a day. And then there’s all the associated stock maintenance. The stock needs constant monitoring: it’s not acceptable if suddenly one of the blends runs out (and Black Canyon prides itself on its optimum blend of Robusta and Arabica beans). Then there’s the creamer, the liquid cream and the syrup: all of which need to be plentiful to cater for the many different choices of hot and iced coffee variants on the menu. And Khun Joy needs to make sure that all of this is being maintained whilst she helps out on the till or liaises with the kitchen to ensure that the dishes are delivered promptly.


It’s a challenging and busy life, but one that for Khun Joy contains a whole lifetime of things to look forward to. “I’m from Issan,” she smiled, “and Southern Thai food is different. A lot of my spare time is spent looking for real Issan restaurants – I need this food! I do like the seafood barbecues that you find on Samui, but then I like KFC, too! I also love going dancing after work in some of Chaweng’s clubs. But what I’d really like to do in the future is to travel and see more of the world. I’ve seen Korea on TV and served lots of Korean people here. But until then, I’m having a great time on Samui and love every minute of it!


Rob De Wet


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