Review: Siphon Your Money Away at Bangkok’s Latest Coffee Hype

BANGKOK — Drip coffee might be the caffeine that fueled Bangkok’s cafe hype in 2019, but siphon coffee might be a new trend that could define 2020.

To have a taste of this new complex addition to the capital’s coffee scene, I checked out a new coffeehouse in town, Black Hills. This small establishment has been in business for less than two months, but it’s already gaining a reputation for coffee aficionados with time and money to spare.

This is because siphon coffee takes about a good 20 minutes of your life to prepare, and the cheapest cup of such elaborate coffee starts at 190 a cup, or roughly half the daily minimum wage. The most expensive one on the menu is a 750 baht cup of siphoned “Panama La Esmeralda Geisha Natural Private” coffee.

So, the 750-baht question: was it worth it? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for.

If you are happy enough for Black Hills to siphon off your money for a cup of quality coffee, you will be treated to a show in the art of fine coffee preparation which starts with hand-grinding the beans (In my case, beans are medium roasted from Doi Chang at the altitude of 1,000 to 1,700 meter above the sea level in Chiang Rai province).

Then, your barista will hand you the freshly-grinded coffee bean for you to examine and sniff its flowery scent.

Once you agree with the aroma, a glass bulb containing 300 grams of water is heated with fire until it boils and rises up into the hopper, another glass container on top. Coffee is then added a stirred until ready to serve on a small thermo glass.

Siphon coffee is as much an experience to observe and it is to sip and savor. The sight of three white-shirted baristas showing their skill while surrounded by lab-like equipment behind the counter bar does not disappoint.

The method of siphon coffee is believed to have dated to the 1840s in France and Scotland. It’s also popular in Japan where obsession with perfection is a national hobby.

My barista Methas “Doi” Surasith kept me entertained with small, insightful chats about his craft just like any good sushi chef or bartender. There are two tiny wooden tables that seated two and three for those not wanting to be at the bar, and a small garden outside designated as a smoking area.

Customers are mostly twenty-something, artsy Thais drawn by the cafe’s Japanese minimalist Tadao Ando-esque décor. They also apparently have a passion for taking photos of the coffee preparation process, which involves beating matcha powder with a Japanese bamboo whisk for iced matcha latte (130 baht per cup).

A small selection of cakes are available to complement your drinks. I ordered orange-poppy seed cake (65 baht) which came off as slightly dry. Was it kept there for too long? I didn’t bother to ruin my experience by being pedantic. Most of the coffees were priced at 190 baht.

If you’re on a budget, skip the majority of menus (including the 750-baht Panama La Esmeralda Geisha Natural Private), and order a cup of conventional espresso or Americano at 100 baht, then watch someone else burn their money through the siphon machine instead.

Black Hills is located a five-minute walk down Lad Phrao Soi 1 from the mainroad. One can also take a 10 baht motorbike taxi ride. Get there by MRT Phahon Yothin Station Exit 5. The Coffee House is open every day, except Tuesday, from 8am to 5pm. Call 085-666-3788 for details.

This review is unsponsored.