10 September 2005

New Addiction

I don’t usually drink coffee in the US. It gives me a headache. For some reason here, it doesn’t. But maybe that’s because what I drink here isn’t your basic latté.
Ca fe sua da, (and believe me, if I could get the blog site to work with me, I’d have the correct accent marks), is ice coffee made with sweetened condensed milk. It’s really good.

My general routine is to order at the café patronized by tourists and foreign workers. They always bring me the drink already mixed and in a glass. Today, I stopped off at a coffee shop that is well off the tourist route. I even impressed myself by ordering in Vietnamese. When the waitress returned with the goods, I realized that they serve it differently to the locals.

She set down a cup of ice, then a small glass that had about two inches of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom. On top of that glass was an aluminum filter, coffee dripping into the glass. She had also brought a cup of iced jasmine tea, which I have come to learn is something that is always served with your order.

I waited a minute or two, but the filter was still slowly dripping away. Getting impatient, I tried to get the cover off the filter which I immediately realized was a mistake. Metal conducts heat. I waved to the waitress who came over and pried off the lid. It was still full of water. So I waited and waited, and stirred the grounds with my spoon and debated just dumping it in as it was.

About that time, I remembered that I’d been told people go to coffee shops, order one drink, and sit for hours. I really didn’t want to sit there quite that long, letting the filter slowly do its job. The next time I saw the waitress, I beckoned her over.

She asked if I just wanted to pour the concoction over the ice even though it wasn’t quite ready. (or at least I am assuming that is what she said.) I nodded, and she removed the filter, setting in the upturned lid. I picked up the freed glass and made to pour it over the ice. She all but shrieked! I set the glass down. She lifted it up, took my spoon, and proceeded to gently stir the contents. I swear, she was at it for at least a full minute. Finally, she gave me the OK to dump it in.

A few minutes later she appeared with another small shot of coffee, worried that I had felt shorted. Since I had heard about how strong the Vietnamese like their coffee, and since I come from the land of intolerably strong coffee, I thought I’d do a taste test. Yeah, this stuff is on par with Peet’s coffee for black, acid consistency.

Suggesting that you all should try the above recipe,