The Perfect Cup of Coffee

by aengelson | September 23rd, 2009

This may be one of the best coffees I’ve ever had.

Quite possibly the best coffee I've ever had.

Heavenly caphe sua da at Cong Caphe.

And I’ve had more than a few in my day.

It’s a caphe sua da (iced coffee) at a little place called Cong Caphe, south of the Hanoi city center. It’s a funky little cafe, with local art on the walls, simple wooden tables, and good music on the sound sytem. (I also like Puku, a cafe frequented by the backpacker-set near Hoan Kiem Lake, but my God, the New Age piano music endlessly repeated nearly drove me to throttle someone). The name Cong Caphe means “Communist Cafe,” an ironic twist I haven’t seen much of since leaving Seattle.

So, the coffee. For those uninitiated, caphe sua da is a potent, addictive and artery-hardening little beverage. The very  strong coffee is of the robusta variety, often seen as a “lesser” coffee as opposed to the Starbucks-Seattle-espresso world’s  more favored arabica. After dripping through a small metal filter, the deep black coffee is mixed with about a centimeter  or two of gooey sweetened, condensed milk and then served over ice.

This particularly heavenly glass was intensely strong, and the coffee had a rich, deeply caramelized taste. There was a lovely crema of foam in the glass. I’m starting to think that quality robusta beans aren’t inferior at all–they have rougher, more spirited taste, kind of like the quality bitterness of an IPA as opposed to more subtle beers. And I just learned that robusta has about twice the caffeine of arabica. Sweet!

And the brilliant coup de grace at Cong Caphe: a dash of salt–seriously–to complete the complex taste experience.

Holy crap, that’s good coffee.

11 Responses to “The Perfect Cup of Coffee”

  1. Mmm, yum. I hope you had cream puffs with it.

  2. Pete Benmar says:

    Sounds heavenly. Can you get that with condensed soy milk? :)

  3. oh for christ sake, get a job! :)

  4. Hi Andy, I was just introduced to your blog. I love it. What fun to read about your exploits in Vietnam. Say hi to Joanie and your cute girls. And… thanks for the yummy post about the coffee…. delightful

    Erin McMahon Subcleff

  5. So does this mean when you get back you’re trashing your espresso machine?

  6. Heresy! But, yeah it does make me appreciate that you don’t necessarily need a $600 setup to make a good cup o’ joe. And don’t get me wrong, probably the SECOND best cup of coffee was made on that espresso maker…

  7. Thanks for the nice words about the blog, it’s fun! I’ll say hi to the family, and do the same to yours! Cheers! AJFM

  8. You’re just jealous!

  9. Sadly, probably not, although I think there is a morning drink here that’s popular like it is in China: hot, sweetened soy milk into which you dip fried breadsticks kind of like doughnuts. Sounds good, but haven’t tried it since in China in 2000.

  10. Reminds me of one of the best cups of coffee I had in Athens. It was made of Nescafe of all things. I don’t know what they did to it because when I asked I got a shrug in response, but it was lovely. I am loving reading the blog – take care!

  11. But they’ve never heard of decaf in Vietnam.

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About This Site

Andy Engelson is a writer and editor who lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. He's currently working on a historical novel set in the Northwest United States during World War II. He's also a freelance writer, essayist and member of the Hanoi Writer's Collective. In a former life, he edited Washington Trails magazine for six years and before that was freelance journalist. He likes to hike, travel, and play with his family.

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I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active–not more happy–nor more wise, than he was 6,000 years ago. — Edgar Allan Poe, “Letter to James Russell Lowell”

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