Starbucks v.s. Ta Bak

Coffee culture doesn’t just arrive in Bangkok when the first Starbucks store opened. It has always been here. On the street. In a cart.

Starbucks may have the fancy flavor syrups. Creamy streamed milk foaming up to the brim. Luscious whipped cream topped ice blended sweet concoction. And the portable status symbol in the form of the green circle emblazoned cups.

But it’s Ta Bak (Grandpa Bak) that has the soul.

Gaafae Boran –“ancient coffee” or traditional coffee as it is referred to nowadays—is brewed daily on the sidewalks all over the country by many vendors like Ta Bak.

Behind a big pot of boiling water, an aging brewmaster wields the brew bag made out of cheese cloth and wire frame with his hands, stained by the color of tea and coffee he’s been brewing all these years. Day after day, he toils away over a boiling pot of water in a country where the temperature is hot enough without adding more steam to it. With well-honed skills, Ta Bak, and others like him, creates a perfect cup of coffee or tea daily. One glass at time.

And you call those sissies behind the counter, banging the grounds out of an espresso machine, and holding pitcher of milk up to a steamer a barista? Puh-lease.

Traditional Thai coffee and tea and be served up in all sorts of different ways. (I vaguely remember someone already post about this so I’m not going to dwell too much on it.) Coffee/tea with sugar. With sweetened condensed milk. With sugar and ice. With condensed milk and ice. And so on.

The menu at Ta Bak may not be as extensive as Starbucks with its gazillion variety of triple shot, half-caf(feinated), non-fat, little foam, caramel, mocha Frappucino with lots of whipped cream, or is it as trendy.

But with the money you could buy a cup there you can treat 2 other friends to Gaafae Boran!

I must admit that as much as I try to avoid supporting Starbucks, once in a while the convenience wins out and I succumb to the same fate as most Americans, lumbering downstairs into a conveniently located Starbucks and pay around $5 for a cup of creamy caramel-y goodness. (If I can help it, I usually drag myself over to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the end of the block). Hey, I love tasty treats so I am guilty! I even homed into the round green beacon in Bangkok a few times over my last visit.

But face it. At the end of the day, it’s not Starbucks I crave. It’s a freshly brewed glass from the street. (Well, nowadays, more like out of a beverage service in a food court, but you know what I mean.)

Thai culture steeps in our traditional beverage almost quite literally. And now it’s representing us all over the world in the form of Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee which are quickly becomimng the new favorites everywhere around the world.

So, down with you, Starschmucks! You can never takeover OUR coffee culture.

…I hope.

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