Monday, January 23, 2006


Coffee in Viet Nam was fantastic. It very rarely looked like this:

Really, it only looked like ludicrously dark coffee in a pristine white cup in the hotels.

In street cafes, a metal filter sits atop an itsy bitsy glass half filled with sugar and your highly caffeinated tar drips steadily down. As soon as you were ready, you discarded the filter with aplomb and downed your coffee in one (or two) gulps. I take my coffee strong, black and without any sugar. Unfortunately for me, I kept forgetting to ask for coffee without sugar and felt restrained by politeness to return my coffees once I got them. I had enough nous to ask for "ca phe phim" to ensure I did not get awful instant stuff but only once managed to ask for coffee with no sugar.

Ice coffee is also better in Viet Nam because there's no milk, ice cream or cream! Heaven for we lactose reluctant types. Ice coffee is "ca phe da den" - which is literally coffee ice black. Again, you have to ask for no sugar which most people interpret as "a little sugar". My Viet language skills are wanting but I thought I go "no sugar" correct and polite; and yet the waiter responded with "a bit of sugar?" I was flabberghasted. My politeness overwhelmed so I just smiled and nodded.

I did not take a photo of ca phe phim. And I did not buy a Vietnamese filter either.

Looks like that's two more reasons to return.

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