Ca phe sua da is said in Vietnam to be a bridge between those who enjoy drinking it together. Popular belief holds that it makes things easier to say, helps people to relax and to express themselves, makes a rainy evening more pleasant, and can kindle a romance on a first date.
Most Vietnamese people – Saigonese in particular – find the kind of coffee commonly enjoyed in the West to be somewhat light and unimpressive. Their coffee is heroic in strength by comparison – a confident, smooth hit of caffeine extracted unhurriedly from a dark roast, using a drip-filter brewing method that preserves the essential oils of the bean. The mood of the drink is highly conducive to a sense of relaxation and camaraderie, making it an ideal accompaniment for sitting outside, talking, and watching vehicles and passers-by – exactly the way Vietnamese people prefer to take their coffee.
The coffee, made from Vietnamese-grown dark roast coffee beans on the highlands, first brewed in a drip filter called “phin”, then, it is poured into a cup of ice to which condensed milk has been added. Traditionally, coffee should be brewed for each individual customer using the filter, but these days when people are always in a hurry for their private business, coffee is oftentimes pre-made.
A successful brew of ca phe sua da is essentially about balancing the contrasts between the temperatures of the coffee and the condensed milk. It’s neither a recipe nor a science – if you attempt to follow a strict set of instructions without paying attention to the subtle combination of elements in the glass, you’re doomed to creating a watery or gloopy mess.
There are some favorite local coffee houses:
Tram Cafe: 100 Tran Huy Lieu Street, Phu Nhuan District.
The Fig Cafe: 15 Nguyen Thi Huynh, Phu Nhuan District.
Serenata Piano Cafe: 329/15 Nguyen Trong Tuyen, Phu Nhuan District.