Outside, Red Diamond in Bangkok’s residential Ladphrao district looks a bit like a rusty container van monster that is headed to the dumps, but inside is a high-end place that takes its coffee seriously. And I mean very seriously.
One of the things that I looked forward to in visiting Bangkok was reuniting with my friend Kawin, whom I met in Manila some 8 years ago and haven’t seen since. We spent some drunken nights partying together some time back, and when I got an invite to dinner and some drinks in Bangkok, I couldn’t really say no.
Kawin knew that I was out for good coffee in Bangkok, and incidentally, his office was in one of the quiet mixed zones that had neigbourhood arcade shopping and dining options mixed in with flats and houses. It was also in one of these neighbourhoods that Red Diamond chose to establish it’s centre, a three-story ode to all things coffee. Here, they roast their coffee beans to perfection. While it may sound absolutely ridiculous to go all the way to Lad Phrao for coffee, Red Diamond is certainly one of those things you go out of your way for. I went all the way there on a Grab motorycle, and after a massive downpour, I finally arrived but not without hitting a highly recommended noodle place nearby.
Aside from the high-end roasting machines, the roastery and coffee shop boasts of almost 100 varieties of coffee beans sourced from all over the world. On the counters are every coffee lover’s wildest dreams: a huge assortment of geeky brewing equipment and some of the most drool-worthy collections of contraptions for brewing the perfect cup. From pour overs, to automatic pour valves, to espresso machines and vacuum immersion presses — they have it all.
These gadgets can induce a mad case of equipment envy, and they didn’t spare any expense in copping the best machines out there. Take for instance their handsome all-white Mavam espresso machine, which is built into their counter. These Mavam machine are said to have some of the most sophisticated thermostat sensors, giving you the most optimised controls for temperature settings, depending on your designed water temperature for brewing. And if you are stickler for more precision, there is the Steampunk machine by Alpha Dominche, which is something that I could only dream of owning. It is such a gorgeous machine which looks extra badass in any room. I’ve seen how these sexy machines work in Yardstick in Makati, and I am totally smitten by the amount of painstaking detail and attention that went into the conceputalisation of this gizmo. Further, they have a Poursteady, which is the ultimate gadget for anyone who likes pour-over coffee over immersion brews (like me, for instance.)
Anyway, enough coffee geekery for now. Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how gorgeous the interiors are, with its raw surfaces, skim coated concrete, rust, warm wood, and leather.
The meat of the pudding is in the eating, they say. Or in this case, the proof of the hype for good coffee is definitely in the drinking, so drink, I did.
I ordered a flat white, which is my gauge for how good the coffee shop is with their expresso drinks. It was definitely a great cup. It was expertly pulled from their Mavam and swirled in with some great-tasting dairy. It was a good cup: really nothing much about it except that it was a great indication of just how great their coffee was in this place.
I also sampled one of the Kenyan beans on offer, which was intriguing as it was complex. I got notes of orange and tomato, but upon closer examination, the brew also had subtle tea and chocolate flavours.
Among their rarer and more premium offerings were a couple of Geisha varietals from Panama and Guatemala, which were all eye-poppingly expensive. Pretty much all of these were wayyy beyond my price range.
As if to comfort me for not being able to afford a Geisha, the baristas gave me a cup of Ethiopia to sample, and it juxtaposed with the Kenya that I had earlier in terms of mouthfeel and flavour. I definitely got more caramel and molasses sweetness to it, including some spice and warm sugar rub notes.
I wish I had the baggage allowance so that I could have at least taken home one bag of beans. I simply didn’t want to risk having to pay extra for luggage, so it took all the will power I could muster.
Basically , the first floor of the building acts as a roastery which boasts floor-to-ceiling racks of coffee beans. The aroma from the roasting drum fills the air as it turns the coffee beans inside to expose it to even heat. The upstairs feature ample seating and a smoking lounge. It also has a coffee lab which, I presume, is where they hold their coffee appreciation programme or even their barista training sessions.
When put side by side with the rest of the coffee shops that I visited in Bangkok, this one is the clear winner in terms of quality, service and variety. It also made such an impression on me because of the kooky and cutting-edge coffee equipment they had. It didn’t hurt that the place had a huge party vibe to it, making it feel more like a nightclub than a place where you could go study, relax, or take a cup of coffee along with some peace and quiet. Nope, this is not a place for that. Put away your laptop or Kindle and start to mingle. Might as well when there’s thumping hip-hop blasting through the speakers.
Red Diamond Cafe
2 Pradit Manutham Road, Lat Phrao
Bangkok 10230, Thailand
Part of a series on the cafes, roasteries and coffee establishments that I visited during the Big Southeast Asia Coffee Crawl 2018, a trip dedicated to exploring the best coffee in the region.