Samui Wining & Dining

Boncafé have the business of coffee firmly in the bag, and that goes for machines and servicing too.


13There’s nothing like the smell of frying onions to make your mouth water! And there’s absolutely nothing like the aroma of freshly ground coffee to make you sigh with pleasure. With the possible exception of new-baked bread, these are the top kitchen aromas. Tea, of course, is much-loved and respected, too. But that’s more or less a taste-bud experience, and not something that can drag you across a room after just one sniff. On Samui there are now a thousand restaurants where coffee is king. But, more to the point, there are thousands more privately owned villas and homes where coffee is always the first order of the day.

      And I’m not talking about the instant stuff that you had just enough time to throw together before you had to run out of the door and head for work. No, the island lifestyle is altogether more relaxed. And the gurgling, chugging ritual of grinding the beans and enjoying the aromas and sounds that go with a real cup of coffee are a sensual pleasure to be enjoyed at leisure, even before you allow yourself that first wonderful mouthful.

      There are several places on Samui where those gleaming machines can be purchased. They’re not cheap. You can’t equate them to a filter paper and a glass jug. But then, any coffee-lover will immediately know that you can’t match the richness of a couple of espresso shots with a pour ’n’ plunge coffee, either. They are worlds apart. Thus to make a good coffee means you need a good machine. But beware! There are pitfalls and traps in wait for the reckless.

      The temptation is to shop around in the big discount shops and warehouses. Prices have become competitive on Samui in the last several years, and you’ll come across enough machines to keep you busy for a week comparing costs – I’ve been down this very same path myself. And then, having mounted your new glittering prize in the kitchen, you can relax and enjoy a spot-on brew as often as you like. Until, eight or nine months later, for some puzzling reason the water suddenly starts coming out of the bottom of the machine instead of down and into your cup. That’s when you discover first-hand the wondrous complexities of Asian warranties. Yes, it does have a two-year guarantee – but it’s only within the first five days that you’ll get a replacement. Other than that you’ll have to pay to ship your machine to Singapore (or Beijing, or Nicaragua, or somewhere) and wait around for half a year . . . Or – you can take it over to Boncafé in Bophut.

       Which is where you could have gone to buy it in the first place. Boncafé has been in business since the early 1960s, and it was created to fulfil a need. In those days, it was impossible to find even a half-decent cup of coffee anywhere in this part of the world. And so, after a frustrating evening touring downtown Singapore in search of a late-night coffee, businessman Werner Huber did some research, and began to import and blend Arabica and Robusta beans. Over the ensuing period of more than half a century things have expanded somewhat! And, although the name of Boncafé might not be so familiar to you, the company has now become South-East Asia’s leading importer and manufacturer of coffee and related beverages, machinery and equipment, with dozens of outlets and service centres from Cambodia to America, and with a gigantic roasting factory south of Bangkok in Chonburi.

       Samui’s own Boncafé outlet and service centre is located right on the ring-road, heading away from Chaweng, through the traffic lights to Fisherman’s Village, just past the petrol station on the left hand side. There’s a pleasant little bistro area outside in the shade, and a compact-but-comprehensive glass-fronted showroom running alongside. This is where anyone can wander in to buy (and sample) any of the coffee blends, teas, powdered mixes (tea and choco-drinks) or the syrups and toppings for beverages and cocktails. But, far more importantly, as well as the impressive range of machines for all purposes, what you can’t see is the fully-equipped service centre at the rear of the premises.

      The branch manager here is a friendly and competent young woman by the name of Khun Thasanee Thepwong, more informally known by her nickname of Khun Tue. “We supply everyone from the top resorts and restaurants,” she told me, “right through to people here with holiday homes. All our machines are quality brands, imported from Italy and Switzerland, and we offer a full repair and maintenance service to go with them. Even during holiday periods like the New Year (especially at times like this!), there are engineers on standby to go out to keep our customers operating. Or, of course, you can always bring your machine in to our workshops yourself. And we’ve also got a variety of annual domestic and commercial service contracts to go with this – probably the most enticing here is the ‘Preventive Maintenance Package’, where our engineer will come and check your coffee maker every three or four months. It’s ideal if you’ve had your machine for a while already.”

      But if you’re still tempted to save a few Euros by going shopping at one of the hypermarkets instead, consider this. Boncafé are aware of the competition. So they run special offers and promotions every few months, offering selected domestic or commercial machines at very attractive discounts for the month. Like the 5,500 baht home espresso-maker package that was on Valentine’s offer in February. Or the sexy little black gloss slab of the Swiss Cremesso machine that was going for 6,500 baht last month – I was seriously tempted by that one myself! These items come and go. And that’s yet another reason to drop in and buy your supplies direct from Boncafé. After all, they are not merely a coffee centre – the entire organisation is 100% coffee-centred!


Rob De Wet


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