Samui Wining & Dining
Cultivating a Coffee Nation

Making the most of Thailand’s coffee beans with Boncafe.


9When you think of Thailand, what do you think of? Palm trees and coconuts? Beaches and cocktails? Diving and elephants? Do you think of coffee? No? Actually, demand for coffee beans is on the increase here in Thailand.

      According to government statistics, the total coffee plantation area in 1960 produced just 750 tons of coffee, and Thailand still had to import coffee to meet demands. Later, the Thai government started a campaign to promote coffee growth in Thailand and by 1976, Thailand had officially became a coffee exporting nation, selling more than 850 tons of coffee internationally. Statistics show that, in 2012, there was a 10% increase in the volume of coffee beans produced by Thailand compared to 2011. This is expected to rise to 12% in 2013.

      Statistics on coffee production in ASEAN countries in the 2011/2012 production year show that Thailand came third in terms of Robusta output, accounting for 1.7 percent of the global production. Not bad for a country famous for its beaches, food and coconuts!

      So with the industry thriving, who better to encourage and support its growth, but Boncafe, a Thai-Swiss, roast and ground gourmet coffee manufacturer. We spoke to Khun Thasanee Thepwong, the Samui branch manager, and found out how Boncafe grow and produce their own coffees, and import, sell and service coffee machines. They offer a complete package of coffee equipment, technical after-sales service and coffee products to hotels, hospitals, restaurants, fast-food chains, clubs, golf courses and staff canteens. They have a roasting factory in Chonburi and foreign investments in both Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates. And they aren’t just passionate about coffee but are also a major producer of various types of powdered mixes, teas, fruit juice concentrates and dessert sauces. It doesn’t stop there either, Boncafe are also the official authorised distributor in Thailand for Torani syrups.

      With its headquarters in Bangkok, Boncafe has 12 branches all over Thailand, from Hat Yai in the south all the way to Chiang Mai in the north. Samui is lucky enough to have its own branch, which has just been renovated. As soon as you walk through the door, you smell the comforting aroma of freshly ground coffee. As you look around at the crisp, modern decor, you’ll see it’s a perfect match for all the shiny, silver coffee machines, percolators, espresso machines, grinders and cappuccinatores that are on display around the shop. These machines are all imported from Switzerland, and are the perfect match to Boncafe’s various coffee blends, ensuring you end up with that perfect cup of your favourite brew. They also produce and sell coffee pods and coffee capsules for use in these machines.

      If you’re not a coffee connoisseur, then let’s start from the beginning. Coffee comes from the Coffea plant. Coffea is a genus of flowering plant whose seeds are the coffee beans that we know and love. The plant is native to tropical and southern Africa and Asia. There are two main plant species grown in the coffee industry - Arabica and Robusta. Arabica accounts for roughly 75% of the world’s coffee while Robusta accounts for only 20%. The plants produce fruit called ‘cherries’ and it is inside these cherries that we find the magical coffee beans.

       Both Robusta and Arabica are grown commercially in Thailand for consumption. The Robusta variety thrives in lowland areas in the south and is easy to grow. It has a high caffeine content but no depth of flavour and for this reason, it is used primarily for instant or blended coffee. The Arabica variety is grown on the highlands in the north, as part of a government program to stamp out the opium crops. Here it thrives where the weather is cool, in comparison with the rest of the country. The best coffee is usually produced from Arabica beans, which is roasted and made into fresh coffee. The coffee plant grows best at high elevations and cannot thrive in freezing temperatures.

      The two beans are mixed in different combinations to create different blends. Boncafe produce premium bean blends, classic bean blends and a catering blend. The blends come in bean form or as ready ground coffee. The roasting strength of these blends range from ‘very dark & strong’ to ‘very light’ and everything in between. They’ve managed to cater for almost every single coffee taste and you’re sure to find something that appeals to you (they even have decaffeinated coffees).

         If your tastes lie more with tea, don’t despair, they have a range of teas called ‘Bontea’ too. English breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, mint and even Rooibos from South Africa are all available. If chocolate is more to your taste, they’ve got that covered too.

         Boncafe supply to restaurants and hotels but anyone can buy directly from the shop. All shops have a coffee bar attached where you can enjoy one of their many selections of coffee, tea or chocolate drinks. Or visit them just to check out their incredible latte art. Try their caramel latte with caramel syrup - it’s to die for!

         Even though Thailand’s hot, sticky, weather is more conducive to iced coffees, with the ever-increasing western influence, demand for steaming hot lattes and cappuccinos is on the increase. But even while coffee production is increasing, the coffee industry itself in Thailand is still quite young with coffee consumption being less than half a kilo per person per year.

         So while you might not think of Thailand as a coffee producing nation, with Boncafe’s passion and expertise, more and more people will discover that coffee from Thailand can both surprise and satisfy them.


Colleen Setchell


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