Saturday, 20 February 2016

Damn fine coffee, and why I like Thais

Sometimes the nicest little things are tucked down back streets, and it's just luck that you find them.

I found the loveliest little coffee shop purely by chance last time I headed into Bangkok by train. The train from Chumphon arrived at silly o'clock in the morning, far too early to check into my hotel, so I decided I'd walk from Hualamphong station to Marine Department dock, and take a leisurely boat up to Phra Arthit pier.

Just as I got to Si Phraya I saw a little coffee shop, Set Up, and thought: I could really do with an iced coffee. It would indeed Set me Up.

Now, iced coffee in Thailand comes in many varieties. Some is just Nescaff granules mixed up with evaporated milk and ice. Some is espresso with ice. And some is really damn fine coffee on ice cubes.

This one gave me a hit of pure arabica - those rich, chocolatey, almost sweet flavours combined with the slight dryness of roasty-toasty not-quite-burned beans. A wonderful aroma, too. All this for, if I remember correctly, 45 baht, which is a bit more than a euro and a bit less than a pound.

Anyway... I like to let people know they're appreciated, so I mentioned to the woman behind the counter that it was the best coffee I'd ever had in Thailand, except one - and that was on a coffee farm...

She clapped her hands, squealed, and leapt in the air with joy.

Now, that's why I love Thais. They are not cool. They don't do English understatement, or a Gallic raised eyebrow.

Yes, there are sulky Thais, and dour Thais, and I'm sure there are a few Thai curmudgeons. But Thai culture seems to encourage spontaneity and a sense of joy and fun. (A blog post brings Buddhist mindfulness into the equation as well in discussing what exactly Thais mean by 'sanuk', usually translated as 'fun'...

As well as delivering the best coffee I'd had for a long, long time, that encounter was a source of pure joy.

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