Samui Wining & Dining
What’s in a Name?

When it comes to The Coffee Club, there’s a great deal the name doesn’t say!


Page-21It took a while, but coffee has now really taken off in Thailand. Of course (and even thankfully, perhaps) it hasn’t created a cult of its own, as it’s done in America – capas, flats, machiattos and ristrettos aren’t words you’ll hear shouted across Chaweng Beach Road. But good, strong, ground coffee is now being sipped and slurped all over. It’s a joy to be able to sit in a little Thai bus station somewhere and get your early-morning fix of the dark stuff. Local coffee shops are everywhere and they do their coffees at 30 baht a cup. But there are also the big American chains that many people swear by. And they even have pastries and snacks, along with the coffee.

      Then you’ll find there’s a whole other arena of coffee shops combined with a restaurant. This is a logical extension of the ‘snacks’ idea – not the same thing at all as a restaurant which does coffee! This is quality coffee, often created with a signature blend of beans, and with highly trained and award-winning baristas to create it. There’s probably a whole range of fruit juices and frappes, smoothies, fruit and herbal teas, and chocolate, too. Not to mention a huge alternative range of iced offerings – this is a tropical country after all. And these top-end ‘coff-eateries’ usually have an equally excellent menu, and some even serve alcoholic beverages to complement it

all. In fact, now I think of it, this is quite a good summary of ‘The Coffee Club’!

       This establishment has quite a history, beginning 20 years ago, one night in the centre of Brisbane. Two friends, Emmanuel Kokoris and Emmanuel Drivas, were on their way home after a show and decided to stop off for a coffee. There were vending machines, yes, but nowhere to sit down, relax, enjoy a leisurely coffee and a chat, and even have a sandwich or a pastry, too. So, after many months of thinking and planning, they opened up a coffee shop of their own. It was hugely successful and they expanded. They were eventually approached by the Minor International group, one of Thailand’s leading hotel and restaurant operators, and The Coffee Club was able to spread into Asia and the Middle East. In 2008, they opened their first Thai branch in Phuket, and very shortly afterwards, a second one on Samui. This is really easy to find, as it’s right in the centre and on the beach road just a little way north of Soi Green Mango. It’s a cool and modern building on two floors, with a street-watching terrace right at the front, and it’s spacious and airy due to a big wall of glass. It’s all super-comfy and extremely relaxed, which is one of the prime aims of the founders.

      “As well as being relaxed,” explained the group’s Thailand Manager, Michael Chick, “one of the buzz phrases we have been using recently is ‘lifestyle dining’. When people visit one of our branches there are no restrictions as to what you can eat or when. We have all day breakfasts and we offer alcohol. If people want to eat pad Thai for breakfast they can. My philosophy is that the easier you make the environment for the consumer the more they are going to want to come back. We have a large choice on our menu; coffees and cakes, pastries, chicken dishes, seafood dishes, pasta and Thai food. When you talk about restaurant-coffee concepts, I guess we are the most modern, and I feel our quality of food is the best. Our focus is a lot more on Western food than Thai food. But, that said, we do take our Thai food very seriously; the Thai food has been designed by Thai chefs, and it’s all Thai chefs working in the kitchen.”

      The Coffee Club is hitting the high notes on two fronts. Firstly their coffee is arguably the best you’ll find anywhere at the moment. The ‘Coffee Club Signature Blend’ deploys a combination of Robusta and Arabica beans, produced at a lower roasting temperature, and for a longer time than normal. This gives their espresso a mellow feel that maximises the flavour without stepping-up the acidity. And their baristas are trained and trialled – and then trained again. Baristas elsewhere win prizes by drawing pictures in coffee froth. But a Coffee Club barista has to be able to taste the difference between the heavier body of an Indonesian coffee compared to one from Columbia. Or to know immediately if the coffee has begun to ‘burn’. And then they can go on to compete – such as the barista from the Chiang Mai branch who went to Australia in 2010 and won first place in the international ‘The Coffee Club International Barista of the Year Championship’.

      And there’s the food. It’s super. There are four basic all-day breakfasts that you can combine together with another entire page of options. There’s even one that reads, ‘Turkish bread with avocado, ham and poached eggs’! How about ‘eggs Benedict with shaved ham, smoked salmon or spinach, and mushrooms’? There’s a full menu of starters, mains, pasta, salads, gourmet sandwiches and wraps, together with an extensive kiddie’s menu. “And we also run a chalkboard of added specials,” manager of the Samui branch, Khun Nuu (Jiraporn Lamphun), told me. “Every few weeks we upgrade and add these to the menu. We have a whole showcase of pastries. The cold drinks are great – try the iced marshmallow frappe! Then there are the special cocktails. Many people seem to like the Mango Daiquiri or the Espresso Martini, with Baileys and vodka. But not normally with their breakfast,” she added with a grin.

       The Coffee Club recently they opened their 13th Thai outlet in Hua Hin. And, in a month or so, when Samui’s Central Festival department store opens, they’ve already staked their place in this prestigious development. The name outside will say ‘The Coffee Club’. But now you know exactly what this name really means!


Rob De Wet


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