Wineweek 120: The Return of the Home Mixologist

We are well on our way past February. Only one week left. In March I can officially start hoping for an early spring. The weather forecast doesn’t seem to agree with me, as Tuesday will bring a new fresh coat of snow. Lets hope that whatever winter is coming, it will be a short one. The benefit with this time of the year though is that it is the season for warming up with hot drinks and eating pastries. Continue reading “Wineweek 120: The Return of the Home Mixologist”

Coffee Bar Review: Roots Coffee Roaster, Bangkok

So it is once again Monday. Being back in Sweden during the perhaps worst period of the year when it is grey, chilly, damp and often a mix of rain and snow makes me think back fondly of my visit to Bangkok. Therefore it is fitting to bring up one of the highlights of the visit there. I had heard a lot of good things about Roots before heading there so I was a little bit fearing disappointment, you know that feeling when you think can it really be that good.

Roots is one of the pioneers of specialty coffee in Bangkok and it was started by Varatt “Tae” Vichit-Vadakan, also Thai Barista Champion and he together with the others involved in Roots, run the restaurant Roast. Roots is located at Ekkamai Terrace #2-4 (at Sukhumvit Soi 63 between Ekkamai Soi 15 and 17). It is not a super convenient location with Skytrain but still, sort of, walkable from Ekkamai station (around 15-20 minutes) but a taxi is recommended. More of an issue than the location is however the opening hours, only weekends from 12 to 6pm. The rest of the time the space is used for trainings and work shops so it can tend to get packed with people.

People do however come here for a good reason. The coffee served here is by any measure fantastic. It is number one in Bangkok and to me they also beats the competition in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Tokyo and they are definitely at par with the better places in Europe and the US. The scene for coffee in Bangkok is really booming and while Roots lead the pack there are numerous others that do great things as well. The consistent quality and the great roasting is however what in my mind gives Roots the edge.

There is a rotating selection of coffee available and usually there are three to four different beans to choose from for the filter coffees and then two for espresso based coffees. The selection rotates roughly every 6 weeks so come back to find new things. For the filter coffees it is also possible to select the method (V60, aeropress etc) but they also make a recommendation for each different coffee and based on my experience it is fine to just trust them. Every single cup I have had here has been great or excellent. The execution as well as the roasting really impresses and it does not seem to matter that much who is making the coffee. The cold brews, in bottles, are also great. Especially in the hot Bangkok weather.

The training of the staff seem to be an area of focus at Roots (and Roast). From what I understood from one of the girls working there, all the baristas go through a 3-month training before, if passing, becoming a full-time employee. It is however not as if it stops there as they then provide continuous training to let people develop more. Tae believes that the people are crucial to making good coffee so in his work to provide the best coffee he has realized that it does not matter if he sources excellent coffee, roasts it to perfection if the people serving it are not as good. So trying to retain people by allowing them to develop, learn and have a career path is a way to serve good coffee.

The strategy seems to work as the coffee is just awesome. What is then even more surprising is the pricing model. There is no price list but rather one pays what one feels it is worth. They have an honesty box and it is up to people to put as much (or little) as they want there when they leave. It does seem to work well though as most people are amazed by the quality.

There is not a full kitchen at Roots but there are delicious pastries available. These are baked on site so just sitting there they bring out new and freshly baked pastries and I do at least find it difficult not to overindulge. The pastries are also great, some of the better I had in Bangkok and these also follow the same honesty pricing system.

Since the place tends to get a bit crowded I do not really feel comfortable sitting around for too long but the place looks nice and it is pleasant to sit and sip the coffee. There is no free wifi or such but this is not the place to come and work or study – the focus here is on great coffee (and pastries) so I am not really bothered by it. I also like the fact that it is clear that the space is not only a café but that they also roast, bake and hold courses here. It does give the space a different feel to many other over-designed cafés. Service is extremely knowledgeable, very friendly and it is clear that people like talking about coffee and they are happy to answer any questions you may have. My only regret is that I do not have such a place anywhere near where I live.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 5
Ambiance and Service: 4.5
Food: 3 (pastries are five star but there is not really any ‘real’ food)
Vs Local Average Competition: 5

Coffee bar review: Ink & Lion (Bangkok)

This superbly cute and well designed cafe (also a mini art gallery) is on a small side street (off Sukhumvit 63) next to a Danish design store and variety of different restaurants. It does stand out in its splendid design and they have somehow created a very nice spot mixing a distinct Asian feel with a clean Scandinavian like design. The same care that has gone in to the design also comes through in everything here. They sell a variety of cute post cards, mini prints, paintings, nice coffee gear (some of it at least a bit different), some bags and of course coffee beans.

The service was very friendly, the staff were happy to explain more about the coffee and the concept. They try to vary the beans every week and when I was in first time it was a focus on Hong Kong so some interesting stuff from there. After chatting for a while with them opted for the Colombian Geisha from the Cupping Room and the Colombian Finca Vera Cruz from 18 grams both from HK. The staff also made sure I knew the price of the geisha coffee and I sort of like that even when it is clearly displayed on the menu (as it is a bit pricey it does not hurt to make sure one understands what it is). The coffee was really well prepared, I could follow the procedure and they came out and let me sniff the grinds as well. They also made sure to heat the cup before brewing into it. The geisha was excellent, and the other Colombian coffee was good but could not compare to the geisha but they really proved they can make great coffee here.

Food wise it is not a great selection, only some mini pastries from Size S (at 55 THB a piece) and some mini scones but they are really adorable and very tasty. It is not the place to come for a full meal but the coffee is really in focus here.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4.5
Ambiance and Service: 5
Food: 3
Vs Local Average Competition: 5