Cottontree Coffee Roasters

The Cottontree Coffee Cafe logo, with a pour-over kettle on top and an espresso portafilter at the bottom.What turned out to be one of my favourite spots during my recent trip to Chiang Mai was also one of the hardest to find, although it was well worth the effort. Cottontree Coffee Roasters epitomises much that is good about Chiang Mai’s (and, indeed, Thailand’s) growing speciality coffee scene. It’s relatively new, having been set up in 2015, catering to a local crowd, offering both Thai-grown and imported coffee, but with the light roasts beloved of the third wave. The name “Cottontree” by the way, is a play on the names of the owners, a lovely young couple, Fai (Cotton) and Ton (Tree).

The coffee shop, which doubles as the roastery, is perhaps the most beautiful of those I saw in Chiang Mai, which is saying something given how many beautiful coffee shops I found. With its high ceilings, and clean, uncluttered lines, it’s worth seeking out on aesthetic grounds alone. Cottontree roasts both Thai single-estate coffees and seasonal imports (currently Ethiopian and Kenyan single-origins). There are two options on espresso (one for espressos/ Americanos, the other for milk-based drinks) and two more on pour-over via V60, Chemex or Syphon. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of freshly-baked cakes and pastries.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Reaching today's Coffee Spot was, shall we say, challenging, with the road being dug up.
  • Safely across what is in effect a building site, you're looking for this unpromising road...
  • ... which in turn leads to this road. Still not very promising! Have faith and keep going, for...
  • ... on a pillar on the left is the first sign that you're going in the right direction!
  • At the end of the road, a smart, but rather unremarkable modern building...
  • ... is home to the very remarkable Cottontree Coffee Roasters.
  • What looked to me like satellite dishes out front are, in fact, vast umbrellas, essential...
  • ... in this climate to provide shade for the outside seating, a pair of two person tables.
  • It's quiet out here, and you have some lovely views...
  • ... although you will need to go inside to order.
  • Stepping inside, the counter is off to the left...
  • ... while the bulk of the seating is ahead of you and to the right.
  • This magnificent communal table occupies the centre of the room...
  • There's more seating around the edges. These tables, for example, line the right-hand wall.
  • There's a bench, with built-in tables, running across the back wall...
  • ... while at the back on the left, beyond the counter, is this broad three-seat table.
  • The view from the back of Cottontree, looking towards the windows at the front...
  • ... where you'll find the rest of the seating, starting with this window-bar to the right...
  • ... of the central door, while off to the left...
  • ... is another, longer window-bar, tucked in by the counter.
  • The plain white walls are sparsely decorated: these are pictures of a local coffee farm.
  • Meanwhile, this dresser and shelves at the front act as a retail section.
  • This small table at the back hosts the water station.
  • The only natural light is at the front, so there are plenty of light-fittings of various sorts.
  • These exposed light bulbs hang down from the high ceiling.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • Last one, I promise.
  • The counter is pretty much the first thing you encounter, the till off to the left at the front.
  • It has a simple layout, with the kitchen behind/to the left.
  • The cakes take pride of place at the front of the counter...
  • ... followed by the menu and the pour-over station...
  • ... although the kettles and the hot plate are behind the counter by a hatch to the kitchen.
  • The beans on offer on pour-over are on display on the counter...
  • ... with the espresso machine and its two grinders at the far end, beyond the EK-43.
  • Beyond the counter is a glass-walled room...
  • ... with the windows stocked with coffee mugs and drippers from around the world.
  • Not the best photo in the world, but tucked away behind the windows is the 2kg roaster.
  • I had a very fine Thai single-origin espresso from Chiang Rai...
  • ... served in a classic, green cup.
  • I paired this with a lovely, hot custard pastry.
  • Before I left, I exchanged a copy of my book for a bag of the Doi Chang coffee.
  • However, no-one wants to end with a photo of me, so I'll leave you with this example of...
  • ... some quite wonderful latte art.
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Located at the end of a dead-end road, in a modern development just west of Chiang Mai’s ring road, Cottontree Coffee Roasters is not somewhere you stumble upon by accident. What’s worse is that, at the moment, there’s major construction going on at the ring road’s southern end, forcing you to walk/drive through a full-on construction site to get to the one road that leads to Cottontree.

However, it’s well worth the effort and I’m not the only one who thinks so, judging by the number of people who were also there during my visit. Occupying a modern, south-facing building looking out onto a large, open space, there are a couple of tables outside on a narrow veranda, screened off by plants and sheltering under the shade of two massive umbrellas. Compared to other spots in Chiang Mai, where sitting outside means contending with choking traffic, here it’s idyllic.

It’s even better in the peaceful, air-conditioned interior, with its whitewashed walls and wooden furniture, where the amazingly high ceilings give Cottontree near cube-like dimensions, the roof sloping from front to back, gaining height all the time. The counter is on the left, with the kitchen to the left of that in a half-height room with no ceiling and, behind them both, in a glass-walled room, there’s the roaster. Together these three occupy almost half the room, with just enough space in front of the counter/kitchen for a four-person window-bar across the two tall, narrow windows to the left of the door.

The remaining seating is off to the right, starting with the door, which is offset on right, a solitary tall, narrow window to the right of that, with a two-seat window-bar. There’s a pair of beautiful, long, thin six-person communal tables pushed together length-ways in the centre, the remaining seating running around the edges. Two two-person tables line the right-hand wall, while a wooden bench, with in-built shelf tables, runs across the back wall. Finally, a broad table with three seats stands against the glass walls of the room housing the roaster, a 2 kg Has Garanti.

Talking of which, what about the coffee? During my visit, the espresso blend consisted of two Thai coffees, one from Pang Khon and the other, the Mae Jantai, a honey-processed coffee from the Surasak farm in Chiang Rai. The Mae Jantai was also the single-estate espresso and, using a different roast profile, was one of the pour-over options, where it was joined by naturally-processed coffee from the Sirinya farm in Doi Chang.

I started off with the Mae Jantai as an espresso, which was lovely, a very well-balanced, well-rounded espresso. I paired this with a hot custard pastry, which had wonderful light pastry and a rich, but not overly-sweet filling.

Chatting with Fai and Ton, I watched as Ton made a V60 of the Doi Chang for another customer. Once the brewing was finished, he transferred the coffee from one carafe to another, back to the original carafe and then decanted it into a third, narrow carafe for serving, a process, which Fai explained, cooled the coffee to the perfect temperature for drinking.

There was a little left over, so Fai offered it to me to taste and, I have to say, it was excellent, very smooth and bursting with fruity flavours. I was so impressed that I swapped a copy of my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, for a bag of it to bring home!

December 2018: Cottontree Coffee Roasters has won the 2018 Best Physical Space Award.

45/38 M.5 T. CHANG PHUEAK • CHIANG MAI • 50300 • THAILAND +66 (0) 86 090 9014
Monday 08:00 – 16:00 Roaster Cottontree (espresso + filter)
Tuesday CLOSED Seating Tables, Bars; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 16:00 Food Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 16:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 16:00 Cards Cash Only
Saturday 08:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 27th April 2018

If you want to know more about Chiang Mai’s speciality coffee scene, and more about the trip in general, check out its page over on Brian’s Travel Spot.

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  1. Pingback: 2018 Awards – Best Cake | Brian's Coffee Spot

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