Meet the 70-Year-OId Barista Churning Out Hipster Coffee and Sage Advice

BANGKOK — Behind the counter at one of Bangkok’s hip new coffee shops isn’t a clean-shaven, scarf-wearing hipster – it’s 70-year-old Auntie Pim.

At Mother Roaster, every bean of coffee is ground and pressed by Pa Pim’s withered but energetic hands. Fittingly, her chatter with regulars is sprinkled with young’un jargon and trendy English vocab.

“I’m a straightforward person so don’t that the customers have put me in a bad mood,” Pa Pim said. “When you really love something, you can do it every day. You know the word, ‘passion’?”

Unless her son shows up to help in the afternoon, most days Pa Pim is the only one running Mother Roaster, which opened in late February.

Thai society usually imagines the elderly sitting at home making handicrafts or cooking for their grandchildren. When one bucks the norm, they become famous – such as an 84-year-old granny who went viral in August for taking her sixth-grade finals.

“I wanted to get out of the house,” Pa Pim said, when asked why she took up the grind. “I make my own coffee at home every day anyway. This is just changing the place I make it, while making money doing something I love. I also get to socialize.”

Despite repeated questioning, neither Pa Pim nor her son would reveal her full name or her pre-retirement occupation. But she hopes that other elderly people will use their golden years to follow their passion too.

“I want to age well. Aging well isn’t just sitting around or napping, wasting oxygen. We can create many useful things,” she said. “Prepare for what you want to do when you’re old, instead of just letting your brain atrophy.”

The septuagenarian says the taste of coffee is more important than creating an aesthetic cafe. Mother Roaster itself is homely and humble, with just a few open-air seats by the counter where she works. Some Thais are taken aback by her brash views on the coffeeshops popping up around the city like mushrooms.

“Every day, those young’uns open five cafes, but 10 shut down. They open cafes based on dreams. So they buy expensive coffee machines without knowledge of coffee, and just invest in nice decor so people can come take pics for social media,” she said.

Mother Roaster serves a variety of coffee, both Thai and imported. Some blends smell like papaya, others of herbs and peppery spices. A Brazilian Yellow Bourbon variety, for example, creates a spicy, golden coffee. Ask her about other beans such as Ethiopia Sidamo, Kenya Nyeri, Rwanda Kabaya and Tanzania Kilimanjaro.

Coffee ranges from 70 to 140 baht a cup depending on the bean or blend. Pa Pim refuses to use syrup or sugar.

“My life is already sweet, so I don’t see the need to add sugar,” Pa Pim said before bursting into laughter. “Doesn’t matter if you want it not sweet or super sweet, ‘cause I got no sugar to give.”

Mother Roaster is a short walk from MRT Hua Lamphong and is open Monday to Friday, except Wednesday, from 8am to 4pm, and on weekends from 9am to 5pm.

Additional reporting by Sunantha Buabmee

Photo: Mother Roaster / Facebook
Photo: Mother Roaster / Facebook

Related stories:

Isaan Granny Takes Sixth Grade Finals