Just down the street from the consulate, a young guy has set up a small coffee shop in an alley. He makes an iced coffee that one of the officers here has named “crack cocaine.” It’s delicious. Of course, if you put sweetened condensed milk in anything, it will taste great. But I’ve had him make me an iced coffee without any milk in it, and it’s still good.
Although Vietnam produces a lot of coffee, most of it isn’t a high quality variety. In order to cover up some of the bitterness, a lot of beans are treated with various flavorings, including cocoa. But the stuff that this guy sells is different. It’s a good variety, and it isn’t doctored up.
On a whim, I asked if he sold beans. He speaks good “coffee shop English:” he can take your order in English without any problems. But my request pushed him out of his comfort zone. So I switched to Vietnamese and asked again. He nodded immediately, and asked how much I wanted to buy. He charges VNĐ200,000 per kilo, which is less than $5 per pound. So I asked for a pound.
He seemed a little surprised when I told him not to grind the beans for me. They grind the beans to a powder here, and brew it with what they call a “phin.” Since I use a French press, I need a coarser grind. I brought the beans home, ground them up and brewed a pot.
Delicious! It isn’t the best blend I’ve ever had, but it’s much better than the sludge that they sell on the street here, and a it’s great way to start my mornings in Vietnam.