The Little Things – Vietnamese Iced Coffee

It’s the little things that make all the difference in life. A smile from a cute girl, getting the extra legroom of an emergency exit seat on a plane or, being able to wake up each hot, humid day in Vietnam to a devilishly good iced coffee.

That (above) little cup of black gold has made my stay in the at times painfully frustrating Vietnam all the better. Vietnam has a sizable coffee export industry that in 2010 saw over 1M tonnes of the good stuff sent all over the world. From arabica to robusta and even with special ‘weasel’ coffee, a coffee lover is bound to enjoy their stay here. And if you’re wandering, which I know you are – Weasel coffee is special in that the coffee beans are first eaten, processed and then excreted by weasels before being cleaned, roasted and brewed.

Excrement aside, the Vietnamese really do make a good ice coffee. First, a glass is filled with a small (2 tbsp, or as desired) amount of condensed milk – real milk is expensive and hard to come by in Asia, and also doesn’t taste as good. Then, a coffee filter is placed on top of the cup and hot water poured through it so that it filters through the beans and drips on top of the condensed milk. Finally, cubed or crushed ice is added. Sometimes for efficiency’s sake, cafes and stalls pre-make the coffee solution in bulk and chill it with the same, albeit less impressive looking effect. The result, a lovely layering of thick black Vietnamese coffee over condensed milk ready for the drinker to mix together.

All mixed up

The great part is that you can find Vietnamese iced coffee everywhere from street carts to high end restaurants, from 5,000D to 50,000D (25c – $1.75) and it will almost always taste great. To order, simply ask for an ‘ice coffee with milk’ or cà phê sữa đá. Those worried about the condensed milk being unhealthy, keep in mind how little is used per cup and that according to this source, a cup only contains 132 calories. Furthermore, your average milk coffee contains 4g/100ml of fat anyway. Or, 160 – 260 calories for a medium sized cafe latte.


It’s the little things…


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