Mae Salong Nok is a “Thai Single Origin” coffee from the Aroma Group, one of the largest players in Thailand’s coffee industry. Last time, we reviewed their award-winning Nan Thung Chang coffee, and praised it for its smoky and heavily toasted flavor. So, how does Mae Salong Nok shape up in comparison? Well, let’s first cover a little background.
Mae Salong Nok (แม่สลองนอก) is a sub-district or tambon in Chiang Rai, Thailand. This mountainous area (known as Doi Mae Salong) was famous for its tea production before (more recently) beginning to grow coffee beans. Ban Mae Chan Luang is one village in Mae Salong Nok that is noted for producing fine coffee beans. Located 1,275 meters above sea level, this village has beautiful rice terraces and is populated primarily of Akha hill tribe people.
The Akha hill tribes originated in China, but can now be found in mountainous areas in Northern Thailand and other neighboring countries. The Akha have their own unique language and traditions, but unfortunately their numbers have been decreasing since the 1930s. The Akha who remain are dedicated protectors of their traditions and culture.
Akha farmers in Ban Mae Chan Luang began to take coffee growing more seriously after 2015, when one local farmer won a Thailand coffee award. The other farmers saw that coffee beans could become a lucrative crop. It is unclear if Aroma sourced their Arabica beans from this village or another one in Mae Salong Nok. As Aroma is a large Thai coffee maker, it is likely that they sourced their beans from a number of coffee plantations in this Chiang Rai tambon, which is located about 800 kilometers north of Bangkok.
Mae Salong Nok coffee by Aroma is a 100% Arabica bean coffee. The version we tasted was Mae Salong Nok drip coffee sold in a box of 5 single use pouches (price 98 baht). Aroma doesn’t market the coffee as a dark or medium roast, but provides the following rating scale: 3/5 Roast Level, 3/5 body, and 3/5 Acidity. Thus for practical purposes we could call this a medium roast coffee, while their Nan Thung Chang coffee be described as medium to dark roast.
To our coffee tasting palate, Mae Salong Nok is a superior tasting coffee to Aroma’s Nan Thung Chang. Mae Salong Nok is decidedly more smooth, with a cleaner finish (i.e. less of an aftertaste). There is a pleasant hint of what we might describe as a mix of macadamia nuts and almond, as well as a light buttery undertone. The energy boost was very even, with no rush at half a cup, but a steady increase in our clarity and mood. It is an excellent Thai coffee, which we would rank within the top 3 that we have tasted to date.