Vietnamese coffee is something very different to what you’ll get back at home. After living in Melbourne for two years, the coffee capital of Australia, I had grown spoilt with the delicious, smooth blends, filtered through an espresso machine to create the perfect shot. I love my cappuccinos, lattes and iced coffees. When I arrived in Vietnam, the coffee took some getting used to. There were five distinct styles, when it came to getting that daily hit of caffeine.
1. An espresso, filtered through an old-style french gadget. These are quite nifty little machines and I bought one for $2 to take home with me. You put your ground coffee in the top, press it down, pour in the hot water and let it drip through slowly into the cup below. It makes a strong black coffee, probably the closest thing you will find to an espresso.
2. Sweetened condensed milk coffee. These keep you buzzing for hours, but take some adjustment to the taste buds. When I first ordered a ‘white coffee’ I did not expect it to be so powerfully sweet and strong. It is basically an espresso, plus sweetened condensed milk. By the end of my time here, I found myself ordering these quite often. Definitely not a healthy start to the day, but it will certainly get you going!
3. Egg coffee. I was absolutely astounded by the discovery of this coffee, which I found in restaurants in Northern Vietnam. It was pouring with rain one day in Hanoi, so I went with a friend to a cafe and couldn’t help notice ‘egg coffee’ on the menu. I had no idea what to expect, but of course had to order it! I imagined some kind of raw egg cracked on top of a cappuccino, which sounds disgusting! Instead, I was served a delicious, heavenly dessert in a cup. The shot of coffee sits beneath a soft mixture, which has the consistency of an uncooked meringue and simply melts into your mouth. It was divine!
4. Weasel Coffee. If you dare, you can try the weasel coffee beans, which are exactly as you imagine. It is a bizarre practice in Vietnam to keep weasels on your coffee farm. They will eat the coffee beans, then poo them out. The beans are then cleaned, the outer husk is removed and then ground, as usual. It sounds foul and time consuming, though of course I had to try some. In fact, it was a delicious! Nonetheless, I would prefer not to be supporting the exploitation of weasels for my coffee, so I might stick to something a little more traditional in the future.
5. Iced Coffee – essentially a filtered coffee with lots of ice. If you want it milky, you will have to make do with sweetened condensed milk. Due to the sweltering temperatures in South-East Asia, drinking iced coffee is definitely the way to go. And there is nothing for it but to adjust to their style. My preference would be to have milk in my coffee, no sugar. Instead, I was faced with the choice of an extremely strong black coffee or an extremely sweet white coffee. At least this kept things interesting!
By the end of my stay in Vietnam, I must admit I had grown fond of their unique coffee culture. Nonetheless, my first cappuccino back in Melbourne never tasted better!
Have you tried any other kinds of coffee in South-East Asia? What’s your favourite/least favourite?