Samui Wining & Dining
More Than Good Coffee

It’s Thailand’s leading coffee company – but there’s a lot more to Boncafe than great beans!

 It’s Thailand’s leading coffee company – but there’s a lot more to Boncafe than great beans!For most of you who are reading this, the name Boncafe will not be a familiar one. But in Thailand, it’s the biggest and the best. The chances are that if you’ve stayed anywhere in Thailand for more than just a few days, you’ve already become acquainted with Boncafe in one way or another – even though you’ve not been aware of it! Because, in addition to producing world-class beans, blends and roasts, they also market an entire range of chocolate drinks, caramel sauces, butters, creams, frappes, juices and teas. Plus, of course, they supply a huge range of machinery and equipment that runs from gleaming industrial monoliths, right through to something that any of us would be proud of in our kitchens.

The Boncafe saga can be traced back to the early 1960s, when Swiss-born Werner Huber started to import Arabica and Robusta beans into Singapore. In 1962,he formed a company which he named ‘Boncafe’. In its first year it was a humble enough affair; just four staff blending and roasting the beans in a shaky little building with a tin roof. But there was a keen demand for his product and

the company grew rapidly. It expanded into new premises and took on more staff. They then opened another small factory plus a warehouse for storing the raw materials, together with the finished product. More small plants followed, and in 1978, ready to expand outwards into Malaysia, the company went public and issued shares.

Boncafe’s success continued, and they subsequently moved into Hong Kong and Australia, before eventually establishing a factory in Thailand, in 1993, south-east of Bangkok in the province of Chonburi. And since that time the company has become Thailand’s biggest coffee conglomerate, and can be seen everywhere under their universal slogan, ‘Swiss quality, Thai elegance’.

Strawberries, grapes, potatoes, tomatoes, coffee – none of these are things which are usually associated with Thailand. And yet they all grow plentifully in the cooler and more temperate northern region, in the vicinity of Chiang Mai. In this part of Thailand there’s also just the right altitude and climate for growing coffee beans, and in particular the higher quality ‘Arabica’ variety. The other type of coffee bean, ‘Robusta’, It’s Thailand’s leading coffee company – but there’s a lot more to Boncafe than great beans! is happy to grow in the warmer conditions found a little further south. And so between the two of these, the Chonburi plant creates a superior blend of coffee which is mild and not at all bitter, due to a careful combination of the two types of bean. The result is widely available throughout Thailand, in several roasts, from the milder breakfast variety through to the dark-roasted espresso, in the form of beans or also as ready-ground or in pods, and in quantities suitable for both catering and domestic use.

It would be natural to assume that you’ll have to hunt for a Boncafe outlet to avail yourself of these coffees. But due to some vigorous promotion and marketing they’re also available in the majority of big supermarkets, and readily accessed at all branches of Tesco Lotus, Makro and Big C, as well as at dozens of smaller independent outlets. But it’s not only coffee they’re producing. As time has gone on, newer trends and lifestyles have created demand for a wider product range. And so, today, you’ll also find teas (peach, lemon, apple and green tea), orange and pineapple juices, chocolate frappe powder and ‘Bonchocco’, a rich and creamy 3-in-1 fortified cocoa mix. Plus the exquisitely sweet range of Torani caramel sauces that are ideal to top off all manner of sweets and desserts.

However, a glance around any Boncafe outlet and showroom will instantly reveal an impressive range of shiny and serious-looking hardware. This is all engineered abroad, in Switzerland, Italy or America, and imported and maintained by the company. All the quality hotels (and very many smaller ones!) use this equipment, as it’s of paramount importance to be able to rely on all those thousands of cups of breakfast coffee being delivered in a reliable and timely manner. Boncafe has a shrewd company policy to go with the sales of these, and provides maintenance contracts which come with a 24-hour emergency repair service. Additionally, Boncafe will also undertake to service, maintain and repair machines which have not originally been obtained from them – and this is an aspect that’s worth its weight in gold, as there are very few companies who are prepared to offer such a service.

Boncafe also runs a comprehensive set of training schemes for baristas, both at beginner and advanced levels. There are frequent and regular barista competitions held not only in Thailand, but throughout Asia. And it’s a most unusual event, even at international level, that doesn’t have finalists or winners trained by Boncafe! Right at this moment, if you’d like to take a peek at YouTube, Boncafe is brewing up a storm of a different kind as they work their way through ‘Coffee War’, a competition (also being screened on cable TV’s Samui Channel) where baristas from different local restaurants and coffee shops battle it out in a series of tests and trials to find the top coffee expert.

And there’s more! The company runs regular promotions on new or existing products or equipment. And by the time you read this their very well-engineered Vitamix blender will be on offer for a limited period at a promotional discount. To check it out you’ll need to pop in to their Samui showroom, in Bophut, just across from the ring-road entrance to The Wharf. And while you’re there, cast an eye over their other goodies, too. Like I said at the start, Boncafe is famous for a lot more than just very good coffee!


Rob De Wet


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