Coffee Cafes everywhere. I love a coffee hit. I like my coffee back home black, nothing added. Locals seemed crowded in a particular cafe, so I thought I’d join them.
I checked the prices…15000 dong, about 90c Australian. I looked around the room and noticed everyone was drinking long tall glasses with a spoon, ice and most of them filled with a black liquid. I take that was the black coffee. Next to each tall glass was what appeared to be a dirty glass of water, which I used as a mouth wash…yeah I know, idiot; I thought it might be used to clean the palette like they do with wine tasting (I later found out it was watered down green tea).
At this particular shop no one spoke English; I point to what other people are having and hope for the best. I start to panic a bit, as I’m concerned that I’m going to get sick from the ice. I’ve been told not to drink the water or the ice. My fear takes over and I look it up on google. First I find a great article on how to order coffee like a ‘local’, and then learn on TripAdvisor that if the ice has holes in it, it’s all good! It did 😁 I also found a great article that researched the history and facts behind it, which is well worth a read later.
By now, the ice has melted somewhat. It’s time to try. Drinking a tall glass with a long spoon, and lots of ice is a skill. I feel clumsy as I get the right angle for the cold, black liquid to enter my mouth. Did I just drink alcohol? Did they put a liquor into my coffee? What spirit was that? I’ve actually not had a drink of alcohol for over a decade, and again, I’m slightly worried; I don’t want to break this dry spell. I scan the shelves looking for evidence…none! I look around, this isn’t a bar, it’s definitely a cafe. I play with the taste in my mouth and explore it further. This isn’t alcohol, it’s awesome! It’s not what you expect from a coffee. Yes it’s cold for starters, but I’ve had cold coffee back home, this is very different. I guzzled as much of it as I could through that ice. I didn’t get it all, so I have to wait until more ice melts. This is good for me! I’m always racing around and eat/drink very quickly. You have to slow down. So I did. I’ve got no where to be, but I did want more of that black goodness.
While I’m waiting I survey my surroundings more closely. Everyone is at little tables, each with their glasses and all on their phones. No one talking to anyone, people just sitting there on their screens. I’m not making any judgements about us, just observing.
Ice melts, I drink and I move on…to another coffee shop. This one has a very different layout and the coffee is served slightly different, glass with ice and coffee in another…I have to sort of make it myself, which I have no idea what to do (and I’ve paid double the price). The coffee drips from one cup to another, and its hot. I feel like I’ve ordered the wrong thing. In the end with some help, I get it sorted and again great coffee. But not as good as my first time. You remember your first times, and mine was a beauty.
I had three coffees that day, and over the next couple of days, many more. You will see franchise operations that are double what I paid for my initial experience, and really, I don’t find them that appealing. I’m not a Starbucks or Gloria Jean coffee drinker back home, I have my fave cafes with that barista touch. It’s like that here…there is a style to the traditional way of Vietnamese coffee, trust the locals.