Chiang Mai’s thriving café scene is a unique mishmash of influences. You’ll find traditional Thai fare, hip western brunch spots, picturesque Japanese teahouses and more within metres of each others’ doors. Culture Trip asks our local insiders to recommend the best Chiang Mai cafés.
Saruda Finest Pastry
Delicate, immaculately presented French-style pastries are the major draw at this stylish Nimman café. There is a wide range on offer, but what will catch your eye are the pastries in the shape of different fruit. These have to be seen to be believed, and while you’ll initially find yourself reluctant to bite into something so beautiful, they really do taste as good as they look. Such artistry doesn’t come cheap, but it’s worth it. Treat yourself – you’ve earned it. Recommended by local insider Mattia Miani
Cheevit Cheeva Fine Desserts
This small chain of Korean dessert cafés is a favourite among local youngsters. One glance at the range of sweet treats on offer, and it’s easy to see why. Its signature dish is bingsu topped with mango and sticky rice – a modernised Thai twist on the traditional Korean shaved-ice dessert. The cakes and drinks are worth a try, too, especially its cold-brew coffees, which are fantastically refreshing on a hot day. The central Nimman flagship is the location to aim for, though there are outlets in local malls, too. Recommended by local insider Mattia Miani
Chaseki, The Best of Tea
Chaseki’s main draw is its menu of quality teas, including ceremonial green teas imported from Japanese artisanal producers. This cosy and eco-friendly teahouse is as lovely a spot for a quick morning matcha as a long afternoon spent chatting with friends. As well as traditional teas, it serves a range of modern matcha-based drinks and lattes, and its tempting dessert menu will leave your taste buds singing with joy. The matcha and white chocolate cheesecake is heavenly – you simply can’t leave without trying it. Recommended by local insider Mattia Miani
Enjoy a traditional Japanese teahouse experience while escaping the heat and bustle of the outside. Magokoro uses only the highest-quality imported Japanese matcha, which you can enjoy with views overlooking the spectacular traditional ornamental garden in the courtyard. There’s a selection of cold brews available, too, and the matcha parfait is a must-try. Get here early on the weekend, or be prepared to wait for a while. Magokoro has a waiting room in the next building – it’s that popular. Recommended by local insider Mattia Miani
Sometimes, you just miss the taste of home. Overstand Coffee’s brunch options and artisanal coffee will set you right in these instances, with classics such as avocado toast, eggs-on-sourdough and doorstop sandwiches, along with excellent coffee. Overstand’s popularity with the international community is a testament to how well it does the western brunch experience. The modern, airy decor and reliable wifi make this a great place to get some work done while enjoying a perfectly frothy latte or two. Recommended by local insider Troi Williams
SS1254372 Cafe is an “art and eatery” space frequented by a cool, creative crowd. The interior, with its cream furniture and trailing plants, is a great space to relax solo with a good book. There is outside seating as well, shielded nicely from the bulk of the heat by nearby trees. Expect western brunch favourites such as eggs benedict, avocado toast and omelettes, all presented beautifully. Its iced-drink selection is a lifesaver on a hot day – definitely make this one of your go-to cold coffee or smoothie stop-offs. Recommended by local insider Troi Williams
Fern Forest Café
A lush, green garden café in Chiang Mai’s Old City, Fern Forest is well known for its cakes and breakfast menu, which offers western classics alongside more usual Thai fare. There’s a spacious, airy interior and – as the name suggests – a jungle-esque outside space filled with giant ferns. People come here as much for the atmosphere and greenery as they do for the food; however, the precisely poured lattes and elegantly plated brunch options are almost as Instagrammable as the location itself. Recommended by local insider Mattia Miani
WAKO Bake is a Japanese-inspired café with a beautiful ornamental garden, a creative drinks list and a menu full of Japanese café staples. There are also seminar rooms available to book if you’re after a meeting venue with a difference. While you’re here, you really must try its unique cubic choux cream, which comes in several different flavours. Inspired by Japanese choux desserts, the café’s owner used his engineering background to transform the typically spherical dessert into something unique, and the result is as tasty as it is picturesque. Recommended by local insider Mattia Miani
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