Some things you just have to try before you understand them. My Mother Vehemently hated motorcycles her whole life due to the loss of a family member in a bike accident. So naturally, my Father bought one during his midlife crises. After a lot of convincing, he got her to come along for a trip around the neighborhood. The moment she got off the bike, my Mom informed my Dad she needed a bike as well. As the Thai often say “You never know if you never try.”
A bit of an over the top soliloquy to start a review about a coffee spot, but GRAPH one nimman, is an over the top kind of establishment. I don’t even really consider it a coffee shop, but more of a place to see just what can be done with coffee. Where the air of pretension is warranted because what they do is just that good; think Parisians with their bread. To be fair there isn’t that much pretension here, but if there was it would be earned.
GRAPH at One Nimman (there is another branch in the Old town that I’ll be reviewing soon) is a high end coffee cocktail lounge – welcome to Chiang Mai in 2019. As such, they specialize in high end coffee based cocktails. These are not your everyday lattes, although they do offer lattes too. The menu is filled with well thought out and fine tuned flavor combinations, all coffee centric.
The first thing I ever had here, also the thing I think is the best, was the “GRAPH No. 16 Boy with Girlfriend”. I know because they give you a little trading card with every drink. You know, in case you forgot what you ordered. This drink is actually two different drinks that you mix table-side; a common theme here. A dark roasted bitter espresso is paired alongside a syrup marbled lime seltzer. I’ve thought about it a while now, and can’t figure out for the life of me which one is the Boy and which the Girlfriend.
This drink, I guess two drinks, is one of the most complex things I’ve ever tasted. Full stop. Not only in every sip does the flavor composition change, but this happens at a macro level too. The first sip tasting completely different than the last. I’ll explain.
This drink plays on the contrast between sweet and bitter, with sour being present throughout. Before mixing a sip is taken of both drinks independently from each other. This is the extremes you get from bitter to sweet.
After combining, the espresso sits on top of the seltzer due to the temperature difference. This allows a gradual gradient to form where you sip from; dominantly bitter while being just sweet. You then stir in the spoon of raw sugar to form a more homogenized drink that is equal parts bitter and sweet. Near the bottom of the glass, when getting to the just dissolving sugar, there is one final burst of sharp sweetness accented by the now diluted bitterness. A full three act story arc in one drink really – your classic Boy meets Girl(friend) tale.
Each sip of this concoction takes you through a similar sequence. The initial impression is sweet as the rim of the glass is encrusted with raw sugar. Once the liquid hits your pallet the bitterness takes over and you remember that there isn’t actually booze in your fancy cocktail, but indeed coffee. Then as the larger granules of sugar crunch between the teeth you’re left with a deep sweetness; accented by the lime.
The presence of activated charcoal is pervasive in “The Holiday”. This is a sort of take on milk and cookies. A layer of panna cotta occupies the bottom third of a glass. Sitting on top is a thinner layer of panna cotta stained midnight black by charcoal. The glass is then filled with a sweetened milk flavored with vanilla.
Next to this is a small vile filled with espresso sitting on a film of activated charcoal. After mixing with the milk a velvety grey swirl forms. What’s left is a three tierd drink – creamy white, bitter black, and burnt grey. The whole thing is paired with an oatmeal raisin cookie turned onyx, by you guessed it, activated charcoal.
There are nitro brew mixed drinks on offer as well, if it wasn’t already painfully obvious. The “GRAPH No. 18” is a refreshingly fizzy, orange and lime non-alcoholic spritzer. The coffee, not coming in the concentrated form of espresso, takes more of a background role here. If you didn’t know it was there you might just think your juice had gone a little off; mind the bubbles and all. It’s my go to for whenever it’s a little too hot out and I need a relief from it all.
GRAPH One Nimman is a must for anyone who really enjoys the flavor of coffee. They are doing great work here and deserve a lot of praise.
The inside is startlingly different than the complex it’s housed in. As the door shuts behind you so do all the worries of the world. Soft lighting, comfortable chairs, and all the little things taken care of by someone who really put in the thought; a proverbial oasis amongst the sand.
You can expect to spend around 120 baht for a mixed drink, pastries in the 40-80 baht range.
GRAPH one nimman
Open: 10:00-21:00 Everyday
The Good Stuff Chiang Mai