Samui Wining & Dining
In The Club

Fabulous coffee and lots more too at Chaweng’s The Coffee Club.

 

12Mankind is a curious species. It’s been around for millennia. Man distinguishes himself from other creatures partly because he invents things. The wheel, the plough, pullies and hoists; that sort of thing. Half of these new ideas come about by accident, like gunpowder, for instance! But the other half are created out of necessity. Dams and windmills spring to mind. As do matches, the raincoat, the tin can and … The Coffee Club. And, just like all the others, there’s a story behind this last one, too!


We have to travel back in time to 1989 and to beam ourselves over to Brisbane to see how it occurred. Picture a couple of ordinary guys, out on the town at night and then heading home searching for a sobering cup of coffee somewhere en route. Not a plastic cup of froth or some powdered rubbish, but a really good tasty blended flavourful double-espresso. And, guess what? They couldn’t find one anywhere.


Which triggered-off some serious discussions between our above-mentioned gentlemen – Emmanuel Kokoris and Emmanuel Drivas. And their first thoughts were to open a top-quality coffee house to fill the very obvious gap in the market. But more deliberations led to an expansion of the idea. Better yet to include a range of quality and affordable food to complement the coffee. A smart and desirable environment where people could meet, greet and eat – and get a great coffee, too. And their idea has born substantial fruit. The Coffee Club has now become one of Australia’s most established restaurant chains, having also spread into New Zealand, and with more than 200 franchised outlets under their belt.


But their big break came in 2007 from a working partnership with Minor International, one of the world’s foremost hospitality and leisure groups, which also oversees such household names as Four Seasons, Marriott, and Samui’s own Anantara resorts. This immediately gave them access to the Asian markets, including Thailand, where they currently have seven outlets, more on the drawing board, and with one of their shops now established prominently in the busiest section of Chaweng Beach Road.


It’s easy to spot, being just a little way north of Soi Green Mango and close to Burger King. It’s an attractive and fresh-looking building with lots of glass, and on two floors (plus the kitchen above this). Although you can enjoy the same quality of coffee in the restaurant upstairs, the ground floor is much more casually laid-out, features the coffee counter and resident baristas, the Swensen’s ice-cream parlour and a host of lite-bites, snacks and meals.


One of the astute international management policies that’s in place is to individually tailor each of their branches to the needs of the local community. In areas that are mainly tourist-based, for example, the emphasis is on a wider range of American and Euro dishes. But Samui’s resident Thai population is more cosmopolitan and outgoing than most. They’ve taken to the burger shops and pizza parlours in a big way. And they just love the coffee-shop ethos! And so you’ll find a broad menu at The Coffee Shop in Chaweng, with dishes (and prices!) that appeal to all nationalities.


There are all-day breakfasts, including an English-style repast, and the intriguing ‘Lifestyle’ option which features lean ham, poached eggs, mozzarella cheese and is topped with avocado. Fresh salads abound, and there’s a variety of grills, nachos and, naturally, burgers. There’s even fish ’n chips! And, laudably, a kiddies’ menu. And that’s without even mentioning the range of Thai cuisine, of which all the usual favourite dishes are on offer. If you think that’s impressive then wait until you see the prices. There are few places where you can eat a substantial multi-course meal for around 200 baht!


Obviously you won’t find that coffee is the only beverage available. There’s a whole range of fruit juices and frappes, smoothies, fruit and herbal teas, and chocolate, too. But it’s the coffee that’s truly the foundation and, unlike some of the more-established and complacent competition, the original intentions of the founders, the two Emmanuels are still operative – the coffee here is superb.

Most people have heard that different coffee beans have differing qualities and tastes. And that the sought-after Arabica beans are of a ‘better quality’. And they’re also probably aware that the cheaper Robusta beans are harsher. But fewer folks understand that there’s a price to pay for quality: the Arabica beans tend to be rich and acidic and need to be mellowed-down a bit. Blending a portion of Robusta in with them has this effect and adds body, too. The ‘Coffee Club Signature Blend’ goes even further and deploys a blend like this but at lower roasting temperatures and for a longer time than normal. This endows their espresso (the ‘shot’ that’s the basis for all the coffee variants) with a mellow lack of harshness but maximises the flavour without aggravating the acidity. They really are most serious about their coffee here!


But a cup of coffee is only as good as the person who’s making it, no matter how high-tech the equipment is. The baristas at all of The Coffee Clubs’ outlets are trained intensively and need to pass demanding trials and tests before they’re let loose on the public. It’s not just a matter of knowledge, either. Coffee tasting is just as much an art as wine tasting. And these baristas are experienced enough to be able to distinguish between the taste of a heavy-body roast from Brazil and a similar variant from Indonesia. The aspect of knowledge goes hand-in-hand with this and a good barista will have learned that a light-bodied roast loses its flavour when diluted by milk and shouldn’t be used for cappuccinos or lattes.


Yes, Chaweng’s got a lot to thank the city of Brisbane for and the two Emmanuels who couldn’t find a decent cup of coffee there!

 


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