Many foreigners do not even know that Thailand also produces coffee too. There are 2 main species being planted and harvested here; Robusta and Arabica. The lower altitude is more suitable for the Robusta plants and they are grown in the western and southern parts of Thailand such as in the provinces of Kanchanaburi and Ranong. It has more caffeine but more bitter too, whereas Arabica coffee has less caffeine but tastes better. Arabica plants are grown mainly in most provinces in the northern part of Thailand and some areas in the north-eastern part close to Laos, in the higher altitude mountainous areas where the weather is cooler and more suitable.
Many coffee growing villages are located in the remote areas and difficult to get to. But, there are also the ones that are easy to visit as well. Minority ethnic groups are the ones growing and harvest coffee. The Akha tribe has quite a great impact in coffee industry in Thailand. They plant, harvest, process, roast, and sell their products. Their famous coffees are in a few mountains such as Doi Chang (doi means mountain in northern Thai dialect), Doi Wawee, Doi Pangkhon. All of them are in Chiangrai province. One of the coffee social enterprise runs by a young enthusiastic Akha man named Lee under the brand ‘Akha Ama’ might be the best coffee with reasonable prices in Thailand. The coffee roaster is located outside Chiangmai city, but there are 2 coffee shops in town.
The Karen tribe is another group of people living in the mountains growing coffee too. Since these people are less ambitious they tend to grow organic coffees rather than commercialized monoculture that needs more chemical fertilizers and might be even use herbicides and pesticides. One of the Karen villages easy to get to, still rich in culture, and of course they grow coffee is Mae Klang Luang village. It is located at about 1,000 masl, in the middle between the foothill of Intanon Mountains and the peak (the highest peak in Thailand). If tourists make a visit to Intanon Mountains they can visit many attractions along the ways such as waterfalls, nature trails, the royal projects, hill tribe markets, the viewpoints, and a few hill tribe villages including Mae Klang Luang. This can be done with or without guides, but it is always easy to use the tour companies to organize this if you have less time. It is located inside Intanon national park so it is possible to go hiking (there are different hiking routes). The rice terraces of Mae Klang Luang is beautiful, those who are photogenic would love it. There are a few homestay houses and a few shops. Only a few families do the business relate with coffee they grow. Between November and February, in the harvesting and processing season, tourists can learn ‘from seed to cup’, meaning picking the ripe cherries, process and also learn traditional way of roasting and brewing coffee.
And, a bag of locally traditionally roasted coffee might be the best souvenir from Thailand for the ones you love back at home, who knows.