another publication by IMAGE asia

Freshly Brewed: Old Phuket's Kopitiams

It is no secret that Phuket is a well-known tropical island destination which boasts stunning beaches, verdant nature and a wide variety of water-based activities. However, to really appreciate the island to its fullest extent you need to move away from the beaches and venture into the ‘Old Town’ district.

  Phuket City

Famous for its Sino-Portuguese architecture, pastel shophouses with wooden shutters and local charm, the Old Town district also plays host to an eclectic mix of unique coffee shops that draw on the days of yesteryear, filledwith worn family heirlooms and antiques. Gathering inspiration from the traditional kopitiams of the region, Phuket Old Town's new breed of coffee shops are definitely worth exploring.

Coffee culture is no stranger to Southeast Asia, and simple coffee shops known as kopitiams are still alive and well in the region. A kopitiam is a traditional coffee shop that serves easy meals and beverages. Kopi is a Hokkien word for coffee and tiam is a Hokkien word for shop menu options often include a variety of coffees, teas and simple dishes such as eggs on toast. The coffee shops in the Old Town district have taken this tradition to heart and expanded upon it with an innovative twist.

Chances are that while exploring the Old Town district, you will need to stop at some point at a cafe to refuel. This is the perfect opportunity to explore Phuket's creative take on traditional kopitiams, while enjoying local desserts and coffee varieties.

Dotted amongst the endearing shophouses of Thalang Road is a scattering of vintage-inspired coffee shops that not only function as a respite from the island's tropical climate, but also provide the perfect space to sit, relax and enjoy a freshly-brewed cup of coffee – not to mention the opportunity to meander around these Sino-Portuguese shophouses that typify the Phuket Old Town district.

The interiors of these coffee shops only enhance the already timeless environment. For the tourist in Phuket, it is quite cool to browse the family heirlooms and antiques that decorate these coffee shops. In most of, the walls are lined with old family photographs depicting early life in Phuket. As many of the coffee shops in the Old Town district are owned by local families, a good number of the photographs that line the walls are of original Chinese immigrants that settled on the island during the tin mining days, married into local Thai families and made Phuket their home.

Keep this in mind while you explore these coffee shops, as many of the family heirlooms and antiques were brought from China to Thailand in those days. These personal touches really add personality and charm to the coffee shops as well as making for great photo opportunities. Experiences like this provide a quirky sneak peek into the history and culture of not only the coffee shop, but also Phuket.

After you have the chance to explore the coffee shops, do take a seat and try some of the local coffee varieties that are on hand. Although it is typical to find the world-famous drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, it is recommended that you try a local take on worldwide coffee favourites. Many of Phuket Old Town's coffee shops source beans that are both grown and roasted in northern Thailand.

Mostly Arabica from the north or Robusta beans from the south, the coffee used in Phuket is full flavoured and top notch. The real fun begins once the beans have been ground and brewed. With creative presentation clearly in mind, the Old Town coffee shop baristas conjure up delights that draw on Phuket's local abundance of coconuts, lemongrass and even 'butterfly pea flowers'. The results give basic coffee drinks a tropical twist, all while providing the caffeine boost that so many travellers need and crave.

If you are looking for something less tropical and a bit less fancy, for coffee lovers it is impossible to leave the island without trying Phuket-style coffee. Known simply as 'kopi', Phuket-style coffee features a strong shot of espresso served in a glass mug with sweetened condensed milk and sugar cubes on the side. When mixed together, the coffee takes on a creamy consistency and varying shades of black and brown. Kopi is thick, rich, sweet and packs a powerful caffeinated punch. A must-try for coffee connoisseurs on holiday in Phuket.

Rich in history, Phuket's Old Town district provides the perfect setting for Phuket's evergrowing canvas of modern coffee shops and vintage-inspired kopitiams. Coffee culture is alive and well on the island, and while the choice of coffee shops is plenty, it is the unique presentation of drinks and the charming décor of the Old Town district's coffee shops that will keep you coming back for more.

  Photo gallery : Freshly Brewed: Old Phuket's Kopitiams