Coffee houses have long served as a conduit for conversation, providing space for communal gatherings and in some cases the fermenting of ideas that have shaped the world. For the past 95 years, caffeine has fuelled the daily discourse at this Yaowarat institution, where politics and nostalgia stubbornly resist any signs of gentrification. The locals wouldn’t have it any other way.
Whenever I walk on the side streets of Yaowaraj Road — the ones that are closer to the Chao Praya River — I often end up passing through Soi Phat Sai, a parallel offshoot to Chinatown’s main thoroughfare, resting between Yaowa Panit and Khao San Alleys. Tucked away in one of the original rows of shophouses sits Easae Coffee Shop underneath signage that celebrates “60 years” of coffee “freshly roasted, freshly made, daily” — the sign having ostensibly been hung up nearly forty years ago.
There is something incredibly telling about the ageing sign’s golden proclamation. The shop and everything within it seems to cling to those words like a mantra, oddly charming in its refusal to acknowledge the passing of the years.
In the dozen or so times I have stopped by to seek shade and hydrate (I feel it’s important to stress the word shade because it seems the invention of air conditioning has also never been acknowledged at Easae), without fail, the same group of regulars — all of whom are men — have commandeered the front right area underneath the awning of the shop. They chat loudly and unapologetically about whatever the latest political hot topics of the day are. This is then typically interspersed with complaints, followed by nods of agreements or mild bickering about this or that scandal, usually in relation to City Hall, Government House or the Police.
As the years have gone by I’ve noticed that it does not seem to matter which political faction is in power, the same lively conversations occur. To provide additional perspective, I’ve never heard any insurmountable arguments amongst the constant cast of characters. While for their part, other customers mostly go about meekly drinking their beverages and doing as little as possible for fear of attracting the attention of the regulars, some of whom can sound positively intimidating.
It is pure theatre, and these men have always been the star attraction on an aging set production that has never needed a revival. If you stop by Easae, it is not for the coffee. Nor is it even for the delicious butter sugar toast and egg custard. All of which are old school kopitiam classics, equally as unchanged as the setting. For this place exists not to please or attract any new customers. No, it exists as a bulwark against change — one that sees no need for renovations, restorations or even maintenance for that matter. Why fix what isn’t broke, goes the old adage.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
เอี๊ยะแซ เยาวราช (Easae Coffee) 益生老店
103 105 Yoawaraj Road, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100
The shop is located on Soi Phat Sai, running parallel to Yaowaraj Road, so the official address is somewhat misleading. Double check your directions on Google Map before going.
The Footpath Files
Stories from the Streets of Bangkok
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