Ristr8to Lab, Chiang Mai: Possibly the Best Coffee Shop in the World?

Drop everything, and jump on the next flight to Chiang Mai.

Why?

Because surely one of the best coffee shops in the world can be found there.

Whilst spending a few sunny days in Chiang Mai I’d put Ristr8to down on my ‘to-do’ list, mainly as something to do to fill the tail-end of an afternoon spent sightseeing. I had no idea that it would end up as several glorious hours spent sampling some of the finest coffees I have ever tasted.

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Taking its name from ‘ristretto’ – the first 15ml of an espresso shot where most of the flavour and intensity lies – the coffee shop more than lives up to its namesake not only by using a double ristretto (doppio ristretto) as the base for its drinks, but also by bringing only the most finely crafted coffees and beans to its Thai audience. Part of Ristr8to’s mission is to introduce the kind of coffee readily available in New Zealand or Australia to the quaint streets of Chiang Mai – and in my opinion, they even go one better than their Antipodean neighbours.

Their mind-boggling menu provides a wide range of coffees either of their own creation, or drawn from far-flung locations. A traditional New Zealand flat white rubs shoulders with the slightly less well-known San Franciscan ‘Gibraltar’, whilst the signature coffees start gently with a latte before progressing through to the ‘Shakerato from Hell’ and the ‘Nasty Granita’ (below).

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Styling itself as a ‘chewable coffee dessert’ (and so much better than it sounds), the Nasty Granita features ice-cold coffee blended with sweet, sticky Oreos and gomme syrup – just in case the Oreos didn’t give you enough of a boost. What this underplays however is just how good the coffee is that’s used to make it. Sugar and sweetness in coffees is usually added to mask the underlying bitterness that poorly made coffee can have, but here the sheer quality of the coffee shines through, and the accompanying sugar hit only adds to the intensity of the flavour. Needless to say, I knocked these back far too quickly.

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Following this: a hot drink. The Godmother Mocha (above) is Ristr8to’s signature mocha for coffee and chocolate lovers, and again the flavours do not disappoint. After the chewy Oreo and coffee concoction of the Granita, this mellow mocha was velvety and smooth. A long ristretto shot with creamy milk is combined with Ristr8to’s secret Brazilian cacao syrup recipe, giving the kind of intense, dark chocolate flavour that’s missing from so many high-street chain versions of the drink.

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As well as gushing over the coffees, you can’t help but gawp at Ristr8to’s unique way of presenting their wares – drinking coffee from skulls leering out through the glass is quite something. Back to cold options, next up was a Nikka Macchiatto (above). This involved the word ‘butterscotch’, so was on the cards from the beginning. Along with the aforementioned ‘thick butterscotch syrup’, a double shot of espresso and milk are shaken over ice before being strained into a glass. I can verify that this is the kind of nectar that breathes life back into you on a humid Chiang Mai afternoon.

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No account of Ristr8to would be complete without a word on their latte art. The cafe plays host to the World No.5 and Thailand’s No.1 Latte Art baristas, and the coffee shop takes great pride in every piece of latte art that passes across the counter. Every aspect of the coffee that Ristr8to serve – taste, appearance, aroma – is lovingly crafted and perfected, and I thoroughly recommend that you pay them a (long!) visit.

Ristr8to Original:
15/3 Nimmanhemin Rd., Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200

Ristr8to Lab:
14 Soi 3 Nimmanhaemin Rd., Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200

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