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Apr 8, 2010 06:56 AM

Do any coffee lovers like Thai/Vietnamese iced coffee?

I had my first iced coffee ever 10 years ago at a small Thai restaurant in Pasadena, CA. At the time, I had barely seen iced coffee around my hometown (Baltimore) and it was a revelation of sorts. Before that, I had never even successfully enjoyed a cup of hot coffee (always a couple sips and threw the rest away.) So I have great affection for Thai iced coffee because it catapulted me on my coffee journey.

As my coffee palate improved, I found I couldn't tolerate Thai or Vietnamese Iced Coffee anymore. I just find American iced coffee to be so much better. I still occasionally order Thai iced coffee, thinking maybe most people just don't make it properly, thinking maybe that one in Pasadena so many years ago was done right. But I'm always disappointed. I've only ever seen Thai coffee available ground, never as whole beans. I'm guessing the pre-ground Thai coffee is what most restaurants make their Thai iced coffee with.

Is there a "good" version of Thai/Vietnamese iced coffee? (Side question: is there a difference between Thai iced coffee and Vietnamese iced coffee?)

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  1. Yes, Viet iced coffee is traditionally made (as far as I know) from coffee and chicory blends, so you will also only find ground versions. Cafe Du Monde and Luzianne are popular brands. It is brewed very strong with a drip basket and served over ice with condensed milk. Thai iced coffee is supposed to be made using this coffee blend that has corn and sesame in it, but often I go to places where it is just strong coffee with condensed milk. Maybe its the condensed milk you don't care for? Personally I love the Thai and Viet iced coffee more than the bland "American" version. You can always make your own blends of them with great beans mixed with either roasted chicory you can probably find online, or sesame seeds and that sweet dried corn that can sometimes be found in Asian markets.

    Edit: Here is a pretty good resource -

    9 Replies
    1. re: Jemon

      Is that dried corn the same one used for Korean teas?

      1. re: bmorecupcake

        I don't know anything about the Korean teas besides the one made from I couldn't say.

        1. re: bmorecupcake

          I don't know if the Korean dried corn is the same as the Thai, but they are probably very similar.

          Sometimes I will grind some of the Korean corn with my coffee for a bit of a "different" flavor.

          1. re: hannaone

            Thanks for the info! I will check it out then.

        2. re: Jemon

          Cafe Du Monde is not traditional in Vietnam, it just happens to be a US brand that roughly matches Viet coffees in roast and grind. But you can get coffee from imported from Vietnam. It (normally) does not include chicory. Instead it is a bend of arabica and robusta. By itself it is too harsh for American palates that have trained to like pure arabica. But it works well with sweetened condensed milk which has a strong tempering effect.

          1. re: paulj

            Thanks for the info. I think if I tell my brain that it's not just coffee, but a coffee blend, that will go a long way to help me out.

            1. re: paulj

              Hee hee hee, true Cafe Du Monde is not traditional in Vietnam, but look around the local Vietnamese restaurant. You see those yellow cans holding the straws, maybe next to the togo counter holding the chopsticks, or perhaps even just stocked in back.

              If it's good enough for them, it good enough for me.

              1. re: paulj

                The issue of palates trained to prefer arabica coffee and to regard other types as inferior is indeed a relevant point.

                On a related note I wonder how many here have tried Malaysian or Singaporean coffee? Ipoh White Coffee?

                1. re: huiray

                  Have had ipoh white coffee at one of the cafes here in London. Of course have had the various combinations of kopi back home in Singapore. But it has been a while. One of favourite ways to enjoy coffee is the more elaborate Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

            2. Yes. But I think that is because I like my coffee black and cappuccino sugarless. So when I have hot/iced Thai/Vietnamese coffee I don't think of it as "coffee" more like a sugary/creamy coffee flavored beverage. If that makes any sense.

              1 Reply
              1. re: viperlush

                Sure, you can think of it however you want! I agree about Thai iced coffee, which is, in the blend with the corn and sesame, about 50% actual coffee.

              2. You can't really get the best Vietnamese coffee here in the US. When I was in Vietnam a few years ago I saw a whole bunch of coffee shops and stalls selling the best beans ever. One, outside the big market (I forget the name) was so amazing that the aroma drew me from 100 feet away. The coffees were unbelievable. I bought 1/4 lb of ten types, and each was the best coffee I ever had. The woman ground each by hand in a burr grinder, turning the handle slowly as she explained in the few English words she knew, that she didn't want to beans to warm up as she ground them. It took her an hour to grind the beans for me. Several reminded me of fine wines. Vietnamese coffee ruined me for most other coffee. I rarely drink coffee now because of being spoiled, I can smell and taste that most are inferior compared to the Vietnamese ones.

                8 Replies
                1. re: JMF

                  Well, of course being in the US, most people settle for the stuff that comes in the can of the same style (DuMonde and Luzianne) but you can just as easily have amazing Viet coffee in the US if you do it yourself. A full city+ roast of a good SE Asian coffee and half as much roasted chicory brewed strong with the addition of sweetened condensed milk makes a flawless version.

                  1. re: JMF

                    If you had the coffee ground in Vietnam and then brought it home, it was stale long, long before you drank it.

                    Get any dark-roasted, good quality bean and then brew it with a $2 Viet drip device. Add sweetened condensed milk and ice, and voila, superb Cafe Sua Da.

                    1. re: JMF

                      Best beans ever? Vietnam is the worlds largest producer of coffee beans. Unfortunately, they have a reputation of producing the worst coffee in the world. it is all cheap Robusta beans grown at sea level. Also, as John said, pre-grinding the beans only insure they will be stale by the time you use them.

                      1. re: chipman

                        These were excellent. I drank them within a short period of time during the voyage. They were not stale, nor poor quality. The two of you are using a very broad brush to paint an experience that wasn't yours.

                        I'm aware that Vietnamese coffee had poor quality control during and for decades after the war. Cheap coffee can be produced anywhere. But the premium coffee being produced there now is among some of the best in the world. So saying anything negative means that you are a decade out of touch with what is happening there, and are baseing your opinion solely on information that is outdated, and not first hand. Sadly, not much of the premium coffee isn't making it out of Asia, so unless you go to Vietnam and buy some yourself, from a high end roaster, you won't be able to experience it.

                        1. re: JMF

                          Yeah.... I didn't want to say anything to criticise, because "to each his own" and your experience was something that no other individual can understand or be a part of, but Vietnam is still not producing a lot of excellent coffee and never has. The pre-grinding is also bad news in the coffee world. Do a taste test with fresh ground and pre-ground exposed to air for even a few hours and the results are pretty surprising! Maybe you got really, really, really lucky? It's not my place to say. But I'm curious to know if you have had much really top notch coffee lately? Maybe your preferences in coffee leans towards what other people don't care for.

                          1. re: Jemon

                            The coffee was immediately vacuum sealed after grinding, and was consumed by myself and friends within a short period of time. I think I have an educated palate and appreciate good coffee and know the difference, others may disagree.

                            1. re: JMF

                              Cool stuff! You described a wine quality about the coffee. Have you ever had a really good coffee from Kenya? They have that sort of thing going on too. That sort of fruity/wine-like background is what I really like in a great coffee. I tend to like that flavor profile, but without that earthy flavor that the Asian coffees tend to have.

                            2. re: Jemon

                              methinks you have never been to vietnam and tasted the coffee there, prepared vietnamese style?

                              you'd quickly change your mind.

                      2. would anyone actually have a good thai/vietnamese iced coffee recipe? I saw one once on someone's blog but can't remember it for the life of me, and it looked sooo good. I think the blogger 'cheated' and used condensed milk, which is fine if authentic ingredients aren't available. I would really appreciate it!

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Shugga Brown

                          From what I've been reading here and elsewhere, even in Vietnam most vendors use condensed milk.

                          1. re: Shugga Brown

                            Using condensed milk is the authentic way to prepare Viet Iced coffee. Vietnam like many other tropical locations, uses condensed milk because it does not spoil without refrigeration like regular milk does.

                            As far as the recipe goes, you need a Vietnamese coffee maker. Basically designed for single use drip coffee. It makes it very strong as needed. You basically pour boiling water over the grinds and let it slowly drip down into a cup that you already have condensed milk in. Once it is fully drained stir to incorporate the milk and pour over a cup of ice.

                            Note make sure to use Vietnamese coffee or a Chicory blend like cafe dun monde.

                              1. re: Shugga Brown

                                In Vietnam, they used condensed milk when they sell it on street carts because it doesn't go bad when exposed to the heat and humidity. That said, a good recipe is to use a 12-14oz glass and fill it with ice and about 2 Tbsp of condensed milk. Using a Vietnamese coffee maker (you can buy one online for about $5) fill it with about 2 Tbsp of medium ground, medium to dark roast coffee, put the top filter on, and fill it with water (about 4oz). After 2-3 minutes, loosen the top filter and wait until all of the coffee drips out. Stir and add more condensed milk if needed. If you use a French press, try to use the same ratio of coffee to water (2 Tbsp to 4oz), steep and press. You can always adjust the ratio a little according to your preference and to the variety of coffee, but it should be very strong to hold up to the flavor of the condensed milk.

                                1. re: Jemon

                                  No comparison between Thai and Viet iced coffee in flavor, sweetness level, mouth feel etc. - radically different. I occasionally have Thai iced coffee but it's rarely as satisfying as I hope it to be. Viet coffee can be mediocre to not bad here in the US when made with brands like Cafe du Monde but make it with Trung Ngyuen and it can be stellar.

                                  1) must used the little metal Viet "espresso" maker that sits atop a glass and makes one serving
                                  2) have to experiment with right dose level and how hard to turn th screw on the filter screen - too loose and it's weak... too tight and it won't drop through
                                  3) must go easy on the sweetened condensed milk

                                  Vietnam has boatloads (literally) of bad coffee but also has some decent Arabica. The good coffee grown there rarely gets beyond Vietnam or Thailand because there's a good domestic market for it there. Trung Ngyuen has lots of different blends but the one I can get in the US, despite being pre-ground vac packed bags, makes the richest and most chocolatey Viet iced coffee I've ever had.

                                  Yes - I know from coffee. I'm a roaster, cup regularly, am intimately familiar with true specialty coffee etc. That said... I am still trying to come up with a blend of quality coffees from other origins (not Southeast Asia) that has a similar taste profile and have not succeeded yet. I spent ten days in Vietnam in January 2010 and had an average of four ca phe sua da every day. They ranged from undrinkable to sublime. Most were bette than one usually gets in the US but there's a Viet restaurant in my community that makes it as good as any I tried in Vietnam.

                                  1. re: Phaelon56

                                    Phaelon, thanks for chiming in. I was finding it amusing to hear people making comments and dissing me, who haven't been to Vietnam, especially recently, and had coffee there. I know I have a well trained palate, and know food and beverages. I make my living from it as a food and beverage writer and consultant, food, spirits and cocktail judge, winemaker, brewer, distiller, chef, mixologist, etc.

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      If you are talking about me, that is not what I meant to do. I was only trying to ask you some questions!

                                      1. re: JMF

                                        i'm trying to figure out what makes (proper) vietnamese coffee have the amazing taste that it does. it's not like any other coffee i have ever tasted or smelled. it's almost chocolatey. i guess it is just the blend. i read that vietnamese coffee is rarely just one bean, but usually a blend in order to come up with the its flavour profile.

                                      2. re: Phaelon56

                                        Phaelon, could you please share the name of that restaurant?

                                  2. Why doesn't Starbucks serve cà phê sữa đá?
                                    I prefer it to American iced coffee. In Los Angeles at the bahn mi places you see more of them flying out the door than sandwiches. The profit margin has to be fantastic at $2.50 a pop. Then around the corner from these bahn mi places are Starbucks with a major Vietnamese presence.
                                    Vietnamese friend knows how much I like cà phê sữa đá and gave me a can of Cafe Du Monde because her sister who works at Bahn Mi Che Cali says that's the brand of coffee they use. Although at the Vietnamese markets there's a French roast coffee they sell in plain brown paper bags that I think makes better coffee than CDM.