A group of friends cheers with cups of coffee in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The best speciality coffee shops in Chiang Mai – a queer coffee lover’s guide

With its many temples and deep-rooted history, the city of Chiang Mai has long been known as the cultural capital of Thailand, making it the go-to city for those seeking a taste of traditional Thai life. Yet, beyond its time-honoured centre, a cityscape of sleek superhighways and modern edifices has emerged in recent years, luring in a new generation of entrepreneurs and young go-getters, and with them a flourishing café scene that’s giving the world’s coffee capitals a run for their money. Move over, Melbourne – these coffee shops in Chiang Mai are setting a new standard for caffeinated excellence.

Chiang Mai’s rise as a coffee mecca is closely tied to its coffee bean farms, nestled in the fertile landscapes surrounding the city. These farms are dedicated to cultivating premium Arabica beans, with local farmers blending age-old agricultural techniques with contemporary and sustainable practices. This rich agricultural heritage translates into a diverse and exceptional café culture, with a coffee shop seemingly gracing every street corner. Here are some of the absolute best speciality coffee shops in Chiang Mai:

GRAPH ground

A group of friends enjoy conversation over coffee at GRAPH ground.
Coffee and conversations at GRAPH Ground: where every cup fuels friendships.

A standout coffee shop in Chiang Mai; GRAPH Ground is part of a popular chain with seven cafés sprinkled across the city, and is operated by a team of talented baristas who describe themselves as “like-minded individuals who share a love and passion for great coffee.” Set in a repurposed old warehouse in the trendy Nimman neighbourhood, its modern and creative vibe attracts a crowd of digital nomads, students, and coffee lovers – basically, anyone with a penchant for a good brew.

The menu here features everything from expertly crafted espresso-based beverages to pour-over delights and chilly cold brews. And to sweeten the deal, GRAPH Ground also offers a mouthwatering selection of freshly baked pastries, cakes, and light snacks.

Bird’s Nest Cafe

An iced coffee on the counter at Bird's Nest Cafe.
Stay Cool, Stay Caffeinated: Bird’s Nest Cafe’s iced coffee is the perfect pick-me-up after a morning exploring Chiang Mai.

Tucked away in a charming 2-story wooden house on the city’s west side, Bird’s Nest Cafe is the coffee haven you didn’t know you needed. Step in, and you’re instantly enveloped in a breezy, rural Thai atmosphere – think homey wooden furniture, charming wall art, and nooks that make you feel like you’re sipping coffee in an actual bird’s nest. And let’s not forget the cosy hammock, perfect for curling up with a book or contemplating the meaning of life over a latte.

While the café is mostly known for its vegetarian dishes, its fantastic coffee and wide selection of herbal teas are not to be missed. Bird’s Nest Cafe brews its coffee with high-quality, freshly roasted beans that promise a cup as rich, flavourful, and aromatic as your morning should be.

Akha Ama Coffee Phrasingh

Akha Ama Coffee, one of the best coffee shops in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Where style meets substance: Akha Ama’s interiors set the scene for a perfect brew.

Akha Ama Coffee Phrasingh is one of the most talked about coffee shops in Chiang Mai, and for good reason. This unique and popular café and roastery is an extension of Akha Ama Coffee, a brand with a noble mission founded by Lee Ayu Chuepa in 2010 to support Akha hill tribe farmers in Northern Thailand through sustainable and fair trade coffee production. While it doesn’t rely on the usual ‘Instagrammable’ trappings, it boasts stunning brutalist architecture that commands attention.

Conveniently located on Rachadamnoen Road, a short walk from Wat Phra Singh, Akha Ama is the perfect pit stop to refuel after exploring the Old City’s temples and sights. Here, guests can delight in an array of speciality coffee drinks, crafted from either blends or single-origin beans sourced from local farms, perfectly complemented by a limited yet delectable selection of desserts. Plus, with their in-house roasting, a variety of beans are available for purchase, allowing coffee aficionados to take a piece of the Akha Ama experience home with them.

Ministry of Roasters

Ministry of Roasters, one of the best coffee shops in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Discover the precision and innovation behind every cup at Ministry of Roasters, where coffee making is treated as a science.

Founded by a pair of architecture graduates with a passion for coffee that’s as strong as their espresso shots, Ministry of Roasters (MoR) is not your regular café – it’s a multi-sensory experience. The second you step into the minimalist white building, you’re hit with the intoxicating aroma of freshly brewed java and a unique interior aesthetic that sits somewhere between a high-tech science lab and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

One standout feature at MoR is its unique classification system that enables guests to select their coffee based on its distinct characteristics, elevating the simple act of sipping your morning drink into a deliberate, curated journey. The skilled team of baristas here have also earned accolades in various coffee contests and could probably make you the perfect brew with their eyes closed. It’s a must-visit for coffee connoisseurs visiting Chiang Mai.

Ristr8to Original

Ristr8to Original, one of the best coffee shops in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Latte art that’s too good not to share: Ristr8to Original is a masterclass in coffee artistry.

Ristr8to Original is a much-loved speciality coffee shop and roastery that has earned its stellar reputation under the guidance of founder Arnon Thitiprasert, a world-renowned barista with a trophy cabinet full of awards for his exceptional coffee-making skills. The café’s name, “Ristr8to,” cleverly nods to “ristretto,” espresso’s richer, smoother, and less acidic relative, which serves as the base for most of the coffee drinks crafted at this artisanal haven.

Most people know the establishment for its outlandish and Instagram-worthy latte art, and it’s no wonder – owner Arnon has won the Thailand National Latte Art Championship not just once, but three times in a row! But behind the playful designs lies a serious commitment to quality and innovation; the café sources the finest beans from around the globe and employs precise and skilled coffee preparation techniques to ensure that every cup is pure caffeinated poetry.