Like oil, the rich black of the coffee shot lies draped over the layer of condensed milk like lace draped over flesh. It’s percolating right there on the table, in a tiny Vietnamese coffee miracle. You’re perched on the edge of your seat, just waiting to the upcoming high. That feeling of smooth, chocolatey caffeine sliding slowly across your tongue, stroking your tastebuds – sweet, bitter, sharp – before rolling down the back of your throat. Waiting is a magic in itself, and when all the water finally drips through those beans, it is a taste almost beyond mere human description.
Vietnamese coffee is not a pastime, it is not a hobby or a casual beverage to boost yourself up before work. It is, all other things aside, an art form that must be properly understood to be truly enjoyed. So here’s how it goes.
Top Tips for Vietnamese Coffee (from a bonafide coffee addict)
It might go against your better judgement, but surprisingly I’ve found in Vietnam the best coffee always is affordable at a local level. Those fancy coffee houses with their special cushioned chairs, their fancy ergonomic cups and their stupidly titled beans are nothing but a fad soon (I hope) to pass into the distant history of capitalistic Vietnam. What you should be looking for in your eternal quest for that cup of coffee that precedes an almost orgasmic caffeine reaction is simplicity. After all, why waste money on nonsense trimmings when you serve coffee that’s guaranteed to bring in the deprived masses.
There are so many amazing coffee houses in Vietnam. In my time there I saw more than I dared to count, or try to visit. They sit speckled around the streets in a pattern not discernible to the visiting traveller. For the most part, the simple coffee shops brew their coffee traditionally. You order the coffee and seconds later it’s sitting in front of you, percolating slowly onto a bed of condensed milk. Although the typical bean blend also tastes incredible out of an espresso, the old style above-the-cup percolator is the way to go.
Lots of beans in Vietnam are of a similar variety and taste. It’s a popular and therefore common blend that suits the tastebuds of both coffee-pumping locals and addicted visitors. But, that’s not to say that there exists no other bean blend in all of Vietnam. Nonsense! Get out there to those coffee shops or coffee houses that sell beans in all varieties. Make sure it’s a place where you can sample or at least smell the beans and go wild. But be sure to check customs requirements in your home country before grabbing some beans for the road.
Whatever you do, enjoy the little delicate details of Vietnamese coffee on its home turf. The tiny hole in the wall cafes, the little stools and tiny tables, the miscommunications of ordering, the giggles at your bad pronunciation. Let it all in, the atmosphere, smells and sounds. And then sit back with your fresh coffee, swirling in front of you like a chocolate eddy, and take a nice long drink.
Now, if that’s not art, I’m not sure what is.
This post originally appeared on BarefootBeachBlonde.com, the pre-evolved version of Maps And Mandalas. I’ve republished it here with its original date because I love it that much.