On a rainy afternoon, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk to a Swedish man who knows a lot about coffee. We met at the Café ARTIS at the corner of the bustling Sukhumvit and soi 18.
Most people around the world have a craving for coffee, whether it is an Espresso, an American, a Latte, a Mocca, or another fancy coffee drink. Coffee can be enjoyed in so many different ways. For me, as a Swede, coffee plays a big role. I started liking coffee as a young child and soon came to love it. FIKA is a Swedish concept, nowadays a well-known expression. FIKA has become an art of living, a life style.
ARTIS was in the beginning a franchise from the US and the name ARTIS originate from Artisan (craftwork). CG Langenskiöld is one of the owners of ARTIS and he began to tell me that he initially found coffee here in Thailand extremely expensive and quite bad.
During a shopping trip to COOP (a big supermarket chain in Sweden) he tripped over a shop coffee roaster machine that he, of course, decided to buy.
Unfortunately, this machine didn’t live up to his expectations so he looked around for the ideal machine, above all in the US. The offer was not satisfying so CG, along with an engineer colleague, decided to develop a completely new coffee roaster. After some time, ROASTMASTER was born.
“At RoastMaster, our Swedish heritage and appreciation for functional design and engineering has been efficiently combined with proficient and high-quality manufacturing in Taiwan, since 2012”, CG explains.
“We are striving to build an organization with exclusive distributors that know about coffee and can provide us with efficient service and support for our equipment.”
“If you have a passion for Coffee, our Roasters can fuel your vision and profitability. Today anyone can roast and get a delicious coffee.”
I had to ask why the machines are produced in Taiwan and not in Thailand, and was told that there are so many restrictions and VAT (tax) here in Thailand which makes a production and export very expensive and complicated here.
So what is the idea behind ARTIS?
“We were supposed to open a showroom in Bangkok,” CG says, “and we were looking around for the ultimate spot. We found this former coffee shop, which is well located in the corner of Sukhumvit and soi 18 and with an attached terrace. We had to ask the shop holder if we could rent it and the condo owner, if it was possible to also rent the land attached. Both parts said yes.
“Our idea and concept is to roast the coffee at the place/cafe. To import coffee is very expensive with a 100% tax on the coffee beans. We decided to buy a Thai Arabica from the northern Thailand; It is good but, is still not unique. To make a real good coffee is complicated. We have done our own blend.
This is how we proceed: We chose the best beans, no damaged ones, no debris.
Our machines roast the coffee to perfection, the coffee always has to keep the same high standard.
The age of the roasted coffee plays an important role, the coffee has to be stored for at least three days.
The typical coffee smell must disappear. The fragrance we like doesn’t taste good; in fact it tastes very bad. When the so called coffee gas is gone, the coffee is ready to roast. Best is the coffee between 3 and 10 days. With age, the coffee taste is getting stale.”
So how is a good cup of coffee made?
“We have hired very well educated staff. Many of them have competed in Barista competitions and they teach the apprentices among our staff.”
The coffee needs a good coffee grinder that can grind very consistently to give the right pressure to the espresso machine and it has to be the right amount coffee and the right timing. To make a perfect espresso it should take around 18 seconds. If it goes too slow, the coffee turns out sour and if it goes too fast, it becomes a “glare”.
The trend today goes in the direction of “medium roasted coffee beans” as it has more taste than a darker roasted coffee. It needs 14 gram coffee to a single espresso and 20 gram for a double. The “Barista” (a person in a coffee shop who is responsible for the espresso machine) must know which amount is needed. For cold coffee drinks, a darker roast should be used, like the Vienna roast.
The trendiest coffee drink in the world today is said to be “Flat White”, made from a middle roasted coffee. This receipt has been a secret for many years, but six years ago CG was lucky to receive the secret from a small coffee shop in Auckland NZ who claims they invented the drink many years ago.
For a Flat White or short Latte, the bubbles in the milk are fewer than the normal amount.
About 80% of the coffee drinks are with milk and approximately 10 to 15 % are Americanos without milk, however with ice.
The milk must be steamed up before it can be added. It is popular to make a “Latte Art” in the milk foam.
ARTIS has, since it opened a few years ago, been a success and the idea is now to make it a chain.
The owners of ARTIS are momentarily looking for a “developing partner” to help them expand and become an active partner. “To save the coffee culture means a lot to us,” CG says.
When you realize how the coffee is made, you understand it is like culinary science. It has to be the absolutely correct amount of coffee and all settings must be proved and precise, which is no problem with RoastMaster.
At ARTIS you can also enjoy a delicious sandwich. Everything is to a certain degree pre-made. “We need a bigger kitchen,” CG tells me. The croissants become delicious sandwiches the second day as they become a bit more firm. You can also order a cookie or cupcake delivered by small suppliers with their own receipts, no machine- made pastry.
“Our goal is to always put quality in the center, roast the coffee beans in place and to have a central production kitchen in the near future.”
ARTIS has a license to dispense alcoholic beverages, but there has been such little interest in alcohol so they stopped serving it. “We close at 8 pm so we are not a place where you hang around late evenings.”
During the pandemic, ARTIS has been opened, but sales have decreased by half.” We use to have many expats and tourists, but now we see an increase of domestic visitors.” Thai people have learned to appreciate coffee today. Technically they are also good in making coffee.
It would be wrong to say that a coffee at ARTIS is inexpensive, but still it is less expensive than at Starbucks.
ARTIS has today 10 employers and the coffee shop is opened from 07.00 am until 08.00 pm.
If you have no time to sit down for a “FIKA” you can buy coffee to take back home. The coffee is bought from a collective in Chiang Rai and the beans are sorted and dried at ARTIS, we always have a stock CG informs me. The coffee bags are recycled and they are used 20 times, I’m told.
Another thing I learned was that the City water in Bangkok has a high quality and with the right filtering you can very well drink it and use it for your coffee etc.
At my visit to ARTIS, I was offered a single “Flat White”. I have to admit that I always have avoided coffee with milk or cream, but it was surprisingly good.
If you haven’t visited ARTIS, I can warmly recommend that you do so. It’s an unpretentious place where you can relax over a cup of delicious coffee.
For more information about Roast Master see: roast-master.com
To end this coffee story I also would like to write a few words about FIKA. I have taken the following sentences from the book “FIKA made in Sweden” written by Stina Almroth.
The word “Fika” works as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it means having a break and socializing over coffee. You might ask,” Do you want to fika with me today?” As a noun, fika refers to the coffee break itself or to the pastries served with coffee. You could state, “It’s time for fika.” An example of fika referring to the pastries would be a sign near the coffee machine saying, “We provide the coffee, please bring your own fika.”
I can warmly recommend you to order the book fikamadeinsweden.com
The author is a passionate home baker and researcher and she describes the many roles that fika plays in Swedish life, both private and public. This book is for anyone with a connection or interest in Sweden, or a fondness for coffee and pastry. Written with love, it is an easy read with insights to Sweden, Swedes, and Fika.
Time to enjoy!