I received two blends of Thai coffee from Lanna Coffee Co. recently which I was pretty excited to try out because I don’t remember ever having tried coffee from Thailand before. Today’s review is Lanna’s House blend, which they consider a medium roast. It looks like they unfortunately only sell their coffee via subscription, and a 12oz bag of this House blend is $14.99/bag.
There is pretty limited information about this coffee on the bag as well as on Lanna’s website. It is 100% Arabica grown in the range of 1100-1280masl. Most of the coffee grown in Thailand is Robusta, which isn’t used much in specialty coffee and that probably explains the rarity of Thai coffees in the specialty market. My two go-to resources for origin information, Sweet Marias and Cafe Imports, were both lacking any information about Thailand, meaning neither company sources coffee from that country. That being said, Thailand does produce about 500 tons of Arabica per year, most of which is grown in the northern part of the country. 1
Lanna Coffee Co. traces its roots back to Richard and Marlene Mann, who came to Thailand in 1959 with a goal of improving village life and that improvement came in the form of planting coffee. Their organization, the Integrated Tribal Development Program, continues to work with over 150 villages growing coffee. The coffee crops are 100% owned by the villagers and Lanna Coffee Co. works with ITDP to procure it at a fair price and serves as an outlet for the coffee in the USA.
Lanna’s House Blend has tasting notes saying it is balanced “with vanilla undertones and a lingering hazelnut finish.” The roast is considered “medium” but I would personally consider this to be on the dark side of medium or the light side of dark. The beans have a beautiful oily gloss covering them, although I didn’t see outright spots of oil working out of the beans. In general as coffee is roasted more the flavors tend to be more about the roast and less about the coffee bean itself. While this is verboten to some people in coffee today, I don’t personally see it as a problem. It does obscure what the coffee itself has to say, but a good, darker roast can be very appealing, too.
I’ve spent a lot of the better part of 20 years of my life drinking Italian-style espresso and dark roasted coffees, so as much as I like and appreciate and enjoy and seek out coffees that tell more of their own story and less of the roasting drum’s, the flavors in darker roasts still appeal to me and I enjoy them so long as they aren’t carbonized!
This coffee is close to tasting over-roasted to me, but it’s not quite there. In the fragrance of the dry grounds I got lots of cocoa and some leathery notes. In the coffee itself as a pourover (Gino dripper, 1:15 ratio, Kalita 185 filter) the flavors were cocoa and nuts with a bit of smokiness or char mixed in. The perceived acidity was very low and I wasn’t really pulling any bright notes out of this coffee. The mouthfeel was a little dry and a bit chalky, but the aftertaste was of deeply roasted nuts. I found it easy to drink and pleasant, although pretty one-dimensional. I think fans of darker roasts would be very happy with this coffee and if you’re a milk and sugar person, this would be the perfect vehicle for it!
Being that the beans are roasted on the darker side and that I have a very hungry Nuova Simonelli MDX grinder that needs to be fed, I experimented with this coffee as espresso, too. My first shot was right on the money as far as what the current ballpark parameters for espresso are, using about 16g of coffee and getting about 35g out in around 27-30 seconds. The body looked good, crema looked amazing, mouthfeel was good, but the shot was intensely bitter. Being that overextracted but having that much body was pretty ridiculous, really. I tightened up the grind a “smidge” (the joys of having a stepless espresso grinder! And, no, I’m not rich, I’m patient and lucky and that’s why I have an $1100 grinder sitting on my counter that I paid $75 for!). This next shot still had awesome body and was a little slower of a pull. The bitterness came down substantially. Amazing what barely tightening up the burrs on a grinder can do for the flavor of a coffee, really.
My third shot hit the mark I was looking for. I dosed a bit more coffee this time, using closer to 19g, and pulled about 30g in about 30 seconds. Not quite a ristretto, but not quite the typical 3rd wave parameters that most people are using today, either. This one had ridiculous silky body and tons of nuts and cocoa. A very traditional Italian shot, if you ask me. Very little acidity and brightness, but this would kick butt in a small milk drink or as-is if you take it straight. Very nice! My bag has enough coffee for 1-2 more shots in it and that’s how I’ll use it up.