COCONUTS HOT SPOTS — Nestled in the middle of On Nut’s favorite street food hub, Better Moon Cafe x Refill Station stands out from the dozens of food carts in the small soi, with green pot plants and warm, wooden gates welcoming you in.
Designating their cafe as a “little green space” in the middle of the commercial alley, the Pongthanavaranon sisters have a far-fetched dream to make their family’s shophouse — and the soi it’s located in — an eco-friendly destination where tourists can sample Thai food without opting for plastic containers.
Two months ago, graphic designer Papawee and her sister, Pawena, turned their old-school estate into a cafe that spreads the word about Bangkok’s excessive use of plastics. For starters, the sisters give a THB5 discount to people who bring their own tumbler for take-away beverages while customers who dine in are allowed to borrow plates if they want to buy street food in the alley.
“We let customers bring food to eat in the cafe but they can’t bring in the plastics,” Papawee said of the initiative.
“If our soi can be eco-friendly, other communities will see they can also do it. By letting customers borrow plates, at least street vendors in the area know that our cafe doesn’t condone plastic packaging,” she said.
Papawee (left) and her sister Pawena (right)
The sisters’ concept stemmed from their camping years as kids. As someone who grew up trekking in the forests, Papawee tried her best not to create plastic waste during her wilderness trips and realized there could be ways to refrain from using plastics in people’s city lives as well.
So the sisters set up a “refill station” in the cafe to let customers bring their own bottles to fill up with necessities including shampoo, lotion, laundry detergent, and dish soap instead of buying each product in new bottles each time, which creates more trash. The “green” options vary from herbal Thai cosmetics to popular brands commonly seen at supermarkets.
“We’re not strict about it, but instead of using … let’s say 100 plastic bottles, can we at least reduce it to 80 bottles today?” Papawee said.
When we visited Better Moon last Friday, the cafe was filled with several digital nomads who were using the space to work. They were probably attracted to the cafe’s peaceful vibe and free wifi.
Some were sipping from the selection of tea — you can mix your own from 15 different kinds for THB70 a pot. For coffee, Better Moon intentionally make it less sweetened than other places in Bangkok, unless they’re asked otherwise.
On our visit, we tried the kumquat soda (THB75), which is pure kumquat juice and soda mixed with no additional sugar, giving it a refreshing taste. We then decided to try the Better Moon Milk Coffee (THB110), which is an iced coffee topped with a rice cracker. Although unlikely, the crispy kao taan surprisingly goes well with the unsweetened coffee.
But our favorite beverage of the day was the cold-pressed juice (THB80), which contains blended guava, pineapple, and carrot. As someone who’s against boxed juice, I quickly finished the drink within five minutes and could tell that it didn’t contain any sweeteners — just pure blended fruit.
Food-wise, while the cafe comes off as a go-to joint for healthy options, we’d like to note that there are only two vegetarian choices available — the egg sandwich (THB75) and tofu salad (THB85). We, however, were drawn to the fusion Thai grilled pork salad with spicy sauce (THB95). The highlight was the dressing, which combined mayo with jaew, the chili dipping sauce Thais traditionally have with meat.
The sisters said they set a low price point so that anyone can come to the cafe, in hopes that Bangkokians will learn about their green concept and help reduce the use of plastics, one bottle at a time.
Opens daily, 8am – 10pm
Sukhumvit Soi 77/1
BTS On Nut