by aengelson | September 23rd, 2009
This may be one of the best coffees I’ve ever had.
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.