Just 27, Khunnaparth “Earth” Viriyatamkul is an unusual figure in Sampeng. With his unpretentious coffee kiosk, V Coffee, he aims to bring high-quality coffee culture to one of Chinatown’s oldest commercial centers. We braved the narrow lanes of this rabbit warren-like district to talk with Earth about beans, business, and why good cups of coffee should always be affordable.
Did you open this stall, or did you inherit it from your family?
It’s all mine. This coffee shop started from my wish for this area to have top-quality, real coffee that’s affordable for Chinatown’s locals. At first, my family didn’t support my wish at all, but I was headstrong, and now I’ve been running this place for a year and nine months.
What led you to take the risk?
I’m a coffee lover through and through. I’ve had freshly brewed coffee at so many places that sell it from B100 and up, and often I’ve thought to myself, “This is way more expensive than it should be.” That’s when I decided I would share my coffee with others, but for only B50-60.
What’s the hardest challenge you’ve faced with this?
When I first started doing this, I was so confident in the quality of my coffee. I mean, I use expensive ingredients similar to other well-known cafes, where they sell their coffee for B120-180, but I’m only selling mine for B50-60. But returning customers would tell me, “Bro, I want my coffee to taste stronger, like, really strong.” That’s when I realized that the taste I liked wasn’t always what the local customers wanted. I had to accept that and then adjust the flavor profile according to their feedback. I’m always happy to improve my coffee for my customers, but it’s important to retain my style, too, because I have a vision for this.
Why the name V Coffee?
V is the first letter from my last name. But the hidden meaning behind the letter V is that it sounds like the word “we.” How I interpret it is that “we” means us, and “us” means “our coffee.”
What do people get from drinking coffee from old-school kiosks like yours rather than multi-branch cafe franchises?
A cup of coffee here is reasonably priced, made with top-quality ingredients, and anyone can drink it. Every cup of coffee I serve tastes unique yet easy to drink. It’s made from top-quality arabica beans with no robusta beans blended in. Every cup of my coffee, whether it’s an americano or a latte, is easy to drink even for those who don’t typically drink coffee. But the most important thing for me is being able to share my knowledge with my customers. I put love and care in every cup, and I try to help my customers leave with more knowledge about what they’re drinking.
How loyal are your customers?
Some customers, despite Chinatown’s horrendous traffic and blaring horns, park their car right at the pak soi just to come down and get my coffee. There’s one particular couple who come every Sunday from their house in Thonglor to buy my orange americano. I later discovered that they’re only making the trip here for my coffee. Once they’ve bought it, they will just go back home. It’s stories like these that make me want to keep going.
What’s the best thing about having your own business?
It’s the pride and satisfaction of sharing my definition of good coffee with customers and witnessing them enjoying it, too. With every bit of positive feedback, I feel more and more like I’m on the right track. It motivates you to move forward so that even more people can experience your products and hopefully walk away with the same impression.
Images: BK Magazine / Coconuts Media