A trip to Chiang Mai is not complete without having a coffee break at Ristr8to, a latte cafe that opened in 2011 with astonishing success. “I’m obsessed with the number eight,” said Arnon “Tong” Thitiprasert, the owner and barista. “There are 44 chromosomes in Arabica coffee and double that in a doppio ristretto [a short espresso], so 88.” Somehow this logic has resulted in opening hours from 7:08 am until 10:08 pm, the price of every drink contains an 8, and Arnon even named his son Ristr8to. When this obsessiveness translates to coffee preparation, good things happen.
Thitiprasert, originally from Trang in Thailand’s south, spent time in Sydney studying English. He got a part-time job in a coffee shop and made up to 1,200 cups a day, without ever tasting a single drop. “I didn’t like coffee,” said Thitiprasert. “I found it very bitter.” Then he began working in an Italian restaurant, where it was considered unacceptable to serve something he wouldn’t try. “I started with two sugars and eventually none,” said Thitiprasert, who now tastes every cup before it reaches his patrons.
The sixth place winner in the 2011 World Latte Art Championship, Thitiprasert flies to Singapore to select his coffee beans and offers up to eight blends from every corner of the globe. His menu is designed to educate, explaining the regional differences in coffee, including grade, processing and roasting techniques. “I got people hooked on flat whites [an Australian take on a latte],” said Thitiprasert rather proudly. “Most locals didn’t even know what a flat white was until I introduced it to them.”
Thitiprasert’s coffee empire continues to be extremely successful with new branches popping up left and right. At Ristr8to Lab, just around the corner from the original branch, he uses a stir-shake-blend-build strategy to prepare the Shaken Irish Coffee, a combination of Jameson whiskey, Kahlua, and Colombian coffee, served in a tall glass over ice. Of course, a regular latté is pretty exceptional.
BRANCH 1: RISTR8TO 15/3 Nimmanhemin Road, Suthep, Muang, Chiangmai; +66 53 215 278
BRANCH 2: RISTR8TO LAB 14 Soi 3, Nimmanhemin Road, Suthep, Muang, Chiangmai; +66 53 215 278
BRANCH 3: DOPPIO RISTR8TO Thapae Road, Muang, Chiangmai.