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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: 11.7501, 108.377
Vietnam's most welcome surprise has been its coffee - while we've been fans of Vietnamese iced coffee forever, it's not something we crave on a regular basis. Once every couple of months or so is enough to satiate our thirst for the stuff, which is a far cry for the daily hankerings we've been having since sampling our first ca phe sua da in HCMC. Vietnamese iced coffee is more of a novelty or a dessert, and could never compare to the artistry of a latte or cappuccino expertly-prepared by a sixth-generation Italian barista, right? How wrong were we, once we first sampled the liquid gold churned out by Vietnam's ubiquitous coffee shops.
Our initial exposure to legit Vietnamese coffee was at our hotel breakfast buffet in HCMC - typically, this would be the absolute worst place to gauge a country's coffee, as it's rarely made to order, often dying a long, torturous death on a burner. But it was so incredibly rich and comforting, even though it had obviously been sitting out for quite some time. If the dregs of a coffee pot can taste so fine, how good would it be when freshly-made? Within our first few days
in Vietnam, a whole new world of caffeine possibilities opened up to us, one that went far beyond the normal Vietnamese coffee you might find in North America.
Our first egg coffee was a sublime experience, and was reminiscent of a more decadent version of a cappuccino, with a finely and deftly-frothed raw egg poured over top. The mouth feel and sensations were a completely new experience, and the taste was indescribable - never in a million years would we have thought that raw egg could go in a coffee, but it paired perfectly with the sweet, thick condensed milk. Whoever came up with such a thing should be inducted into the Coffee Hall of Fame!
Even better was Cong Caphe's coconut coffee, the most sublime slurpee imaginable - a smooth coconut cream slush delicately placed atop a shot of Vietnamese iced coffee? Does it get any better than a concoction that is half-dessert, half coffee, and 100% pure sexy deliciousness? Trust me when I say that there is nothing more refreshing than that coconut coffee after a day of touring around hot and humid Vietnam - outside of jumping into a swimming pool, there is no better and faster way of
Crazy House ...
... one of the most unique attractions you'll find anywhere in the world is in Dalat - it's a hotel that is like a fairy tale brought to life.
warding off heat stroke in Southeast Asia.
I've read numerous online reviews of Vietnamese hotels, and a common complaint amongst Westerners is the dreadful coffee - I have to believe that this is merely people refusing to get out of their comfort zone, because we've already been in several hotels in Vietnam, and while not on par with local coffee shops, they still produced excellent coffee. I can understand how it might be disappointing if you are expecting an americano or a cappuccino, but with an open mind, the quality of Vietnamese coffee is undeniable.
It's quite interesting that such a rich and flavourful coffee is produced here, since nearly all of the coffee shops frequented by locals use robusta coffee, which is widely acknowledged as being inferior to the arabica varieties served in the more-developed world. Perhaps it's a combination of the quality of Vietnamese-grown robusta coffee, and the skill of those making the coffee. Even though the heavy use of condensed milk can be overpowering at times, the fantastic aromas still shine through.
So of course, now that we arrived in Dalat, we had to make the obligatory visit to a coffee farm, since this is the heart of the country's
coffee production. The Vietnamese coffee machine has ramped up over the years, to the point that it is now the second-largest producing nation in the world. They have even taken a page out of the Indonesian playbook and make their own version of the infamous civet coffee, which is supposedly extra delicious because the coffee cherries have been eaten, partially-digested, and then crapped out by weasel-like creatures.
It is believed that the quality of this coffee is due to not only the digestive process of the animal, but also its discerning palate - apparently, they will eat only the best-quality beans. The Indonesian varieties sell for up to $2,000 USD per kilo, but the Vietnamese version goes for a far more affordable, but still way-too-much-for-us price of only $200 USD per kilo! Luckily for us, we could still sample a cup of the stuff for about $3 USD at the Me Linh Coffee Farm, a price far more palatable than the idea of weasel crap coffee was.
Perhaps it's better in Indonesia, because we really couldn't see what the fuss was all about - though it was seemingly richer and more complex in flavour, we actually preferred the regular version. After all,
... the architect has acknowledged that famed Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi was an inspiration - even without knowing this fact, if you've seen Gaudi's work before, you instantly can see a bit of him at the Crazy House.
if I was actually going to pay $2,000 for a kilo of coffee, it better not have come out of anybody's butt!
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