The last leg of my around the world solo 50-day journey was a week’s stay in Hanoi. Up to this point the trip had been over the top wonderful. In Hanoi, I had expected to relax and wind down, see a few of the most important sites, sample Vietnamese cuisine, and basically chill before I took the long flight home to Louisiana. To my surprise, I didn’t take it easy in Hanoi. There was so much to see and do in this picturesque city, plus I discovered because of the former French Colonial influence, Hanoi reminded me of New Orleans. I took to this city like a fish out of water. One of the most pleasant surprises was its fabulous coffee.
Gotta Have Strong Coffee
Growing up in Louisiana, I am accustomed to enjoying strong coffee. Having a strong cup of coffee to get you going, lift your mood or as a social mixer is a cultural mainstay for Louisianians. Because of this upbringing, when I travel I’m always a little stressed wondering if where I am headed will have good coffee. Without it, I am a little out of sorts! Starbucks has become my go to if the coffee is not up to my liking but sometimes Starbucks is not available, which was the case in Hanoi. But similar to Vienna, Istanbul or Berlin where the coffee cafe cultures are vibrant, getting a good cup of coffee in Hanoi was not a problem.
The First Cup of Vietnamese Coffee was Great!
I took to Vietnamese coffee from the first cup I enjoyed at breakfast at the famed Hotel Metropole. It was totally unique to any other coffee I had drank anywhere else in the world. Each cup is individually brewed and is sweetened with condensed milk- delicious! This set the tone for my ultra pleasant stay in Hanoi.
Like the French drip coffee I enjoy in Louisiana, a special brewing device is used. What is different is that instead of a French drip pot, Vietnamese coffee is made with a filter called a phin, a single cup brewing device that is placed over the coffee cup allowing for each cup to be individually brewed. A separate small pitcher of condensed milk accompanies the coffee with which you sweeten to your liking.
Vietnamese Coffee Recipe
On my Hanoi food tour I probed the tour guide for the secret on how to make a great cup of Vietnamese coffee. Here is the recipe:
Pour a small amount of heated water in a coffee cup to warm it up.
Pour condensed milk into the bottom ⅓ of the cup.
Place the phin on top of the cup.
Put 3 teaspoons of freshly ground coffee beans in the bottom of the phin. Popular Trung Nguyen heirloom coffee bean grounds or specialty blends are Hanoi favorites. Coincidentally, in the US Cafe du Monde or the French Market Cafe coffee made in New Orleans is a recommended substitute if authentic Vietnamese coffee is not readily available.
Using the mini interior filter inside the phin gently press the grounds tightly down. Pour a slight amount of water heated between 185-190 degrees into the phin and let the grounds swell for 10-20 seconds. This seemingly unimportant step is vital to slowing down the dripping process that produces the most flavorful cup of coffee.
Pour the remaining hot but not boiling water into the phin and wait 4-6 minutes until it has fully brewed.
Before drinking, stir the condensed milk and the freshly brewed coffee together.
Voilà! You now have a delicious cup of Vietnamese coffee. Filling, flavorful with a unique taste that you may very well become addicted to. I found the Vietnamese people to be extremely industrious and upbeat. Maybe it’s their fabulous Vietnamese coffee that is the elixir!
If this blog post has peaked your interest and you would like to enjoy the real thing, I suggest visiting the Trung Nguyen website, the number one source for everything you need to make a perfect cup from the different coffee types, to the phin and even the Vietnamese branded condensed milk. The coffee kits are priced between $11.95-$28.95.
Enjoy this informative video showing you how to brew a perfect cup of Vietnamese coffee, hot or cold.
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Author: Astrid Clements
Astrid Solo Travel Advisor CEO and founder, Astrid, has spent over 40 years traveling around the world. She is passionate about embracing the world’s diverse cultures and sharing with others the global need and personal benefit of cultural literacy. Her focus is on affordable luxury travel that is both substantive and fun! To read more about her and each one of our Solo Travel Advisors, head over to the About page!