One time after eating at Ban Nam Kieng Din I noticed a lovely little shop at the entrance of the restaurant. I just assumed this was some sort of gift shop but when I peered in through the windows the interior was intriguing with brightly lit desserts – not a gift shop. I was curious enough to go back and see what this little restaurant was all about. The décor of Kaffeehaus (the name of the coffee shop) is in the theme of 19th century Vienna coffee shop al la Café Savoy. The feel is elegant with prices to match. There are many reviews of Kaffeehaus with beautiful pictures. I will throw my two cents in but the main focus for me is coffee.
Vienna coffee houses were a place for artists, writers, and intellectuals to gather; Kaffeehaus’ elegance did not translate into charm or a relaxed vibe. On the contrary, there was a formalness to it. Maybe I would bring someone who I wanted to impress to this shop but I did not feel I could break out my computer and camp out for a couple of hours. The staff was nice, though not necessarily friendly. The detailed décor and furniture were plush, interesting, and had a European façade; an atmosphere better suited to enjoy a beer or fancy cocktail while having a close chat with a friend rather than an afternoon coffee.
About my reviews
Before I get into the coffee I want to say how I do reviews. I pick a coffee shop and just show up with my wife and son. We sit down like any ordinary customers and order. I will order drinks that highlight the coffee – espresso, drip, americano, cold brew. I will not be ordering sweet drinks that try to cover up the coffee flavor. I don’t tell the waiter or barista that I’m doing a review. I don’t ask for anything free or any special service. The coffee shop does not pay me to take beautiful pictures or to write something flattering. After some time, I tell the waiter or barista I’m doing a review and ask questions about the coffee beans or process to get some more details about the knowledge level of the staff and whether they are taking care to make good coffee. With that being said, what I write is my opinion, nothing more or less. Am I a coffee shop/coffee expert? Nope. Do I enjoy coffee? Yup, and I know a thing or two about it. I try to be honest without being an asshole so that the review actually means something when you read it. Okay, moving on to the coffee.
The menu has cold brew and they have a cold brew tower behind the counter, so I figured I must get a glass of that. At 130฿ it is on par with the price of Starbucks but that is where the comparison ends. The cold brew was elegantly served with a submerged orange slice and simple syrup on the side. Bringing the glass up to my mouth I got a strong smell of orange and something else I could not quite place…licorice maybe? I took a sip and was just very disappointed. Considering cold brew is one of my favorite ways to drink coffee, I will be more critical of this drink. What I taste for in a cold brew is a very clean smooth drink that highlights the coffee flavor – this was akin to drinking a liqueur. Other people may be interested in tasting a drink like this, but it was hardly a coffee. That may sound harsh but it’s the truth. The coffee flavor was drowned out by the orange slice and the syrup. My wife said it tasted almost exactly like “oliang”, a kind of Thai black coffee made with brown sugar and various grains and seeds like cardamom, corn, soybeans, rice, and sesame seeds.
However, there is a bright side to this unpalatable drink. The barista was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions about coffee bean roasts and origins and brewing methods. She informed me that this was a new blend of beans they were trying in the cold brew and that I was one of the first to try it. She asked for my honest thoughts. I told her the flavor was certainly not for me, I don’t want my coffee to taste like a liqueur but that others may like it. What I appreciate is that this shop was trying something new, it is willing to experiment and see what happens even if the results were not so great this time.
Moving on to the hot latte was not much of an improvement. The espresso shot was made using a blend of Ethiopian, Brazilian and Papua New Guinea beans, not bad on the face of it but it created an oddly acidic latte. My coffee pallet is expanding to appreciate the lighter roasts and the espresso shots that bring out more acidity, but this latte was just not there. There was a bit of sharpness to the drink when I should be using words like rich and creamy.
On the whole, Kaffeehaus presents an elegant coffee shop/restaurant with knowledgeable staff, quality beans, and an innovative spirit but the results fell flat for me. This is a unique shop that is obviously interested in preparing great coffee, I hope to revisit it and to be blown away.