[I] met Bim Patcharang, the young, female owner of locally renowned Baan Café, my first day in Si Satchanalai—the rural district about an hour north of Thailand’s original capital city, Sukhothai. As I walked into the café, I was greeted by an air-conditioned oasis from the midday heat. I nervously glanced up at the menu, afraid I wouldn’t be able to understand the Thai lettering, but each drink was written out in both Thai and English. I came to learn that this was just one way Thai and Western cultures come together in this space.
What to get, though? I was overwhelmed by the selection of coffees, teas, sodas, and cakes. Patcharang’s friendly smile and the refreshingly cool green tea made me feel at ease. I opted for a tea-based drink.
Cha keow yen nom?
Iced green tea with milk?
The creamy green tea was cool heaven served in a cup. Patcharang and her staff brew tea by running water through tea leaves pressed into the portafilters of the two-group Faema espresso machine. Then, they mix the fresh, hot tea with condensed and fresh milk and pour the mixture over sharply angled ice cubes.
Some cafés have caught on to using the espresso machine for green tea, but many simply dump powder into a cup and call it green tea with milk. Baan Café pays careful attention to detail in every aspect of the customer’s experience, blending influences from other coffee-centered cultures with traditional Thai elements.
Hot coffees and teas are served on wooden trays with tiny silver spoons, evoking visions of an old English garden. Plush, floral chairs encourage guests to stay and relax, while a soundtrack of English pop songs and smooth Thai tracks plays in the background. The stark white walls and smooth, pearly floors bounce light around the airy café, reminiscent of the minimal aesthetic common in Western design.
Enhancing the experience at Baan Café is a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Customers take full advantage by regularly snapping and posting photos using the pastel print floral wallpaper—a rarity in central Thailand—as a backdrop.
Though the café has eclectic influence, the coffee is strictly local. Grown in central Thailand, the coffee is positively delicious and highlighted on the café’s menu—including in the aptly named Baan Coffee, a drink available hot or cold, made by mixing coffee and tea in the portafilter of the espresso machine, then adding a touch of milk to the resulting blend.
Before opening Baan Café in 2012, Patcharang learned how to make the perfect cup of coffee while working at Bew Coffee in the nearby town of Sawankhalok. There she built a foundation of knowledge in coffee preparation—using the same locally sourced coffee—gaining valuable customer service skills along the way.
Patcharang’s knack for hospitality shows: Baan Café serves as a social space to a diverse crowd of locals and tourists. Customers young and old spend time here, all drawn in by her friendliness. I was among the steady crop of regulars throughout my time in Thailand; Patcharang greeted me each time I walked through the glass doors, and she always remembered the regular orders of my friends and me.
Maybe it’s the locally grown coffee and the skilled craftsmanship of Patcharang and her staff, but I think it is the love and excellent customer service put into every drink that makes the experience at Baan Café so wonderful.
—Edie Wilson is a freelance writer based in Lansing, Michigan.