Iced coffee is a staple in tropical Vietnam, as might well be expected. In fact, the way a coffee tastes iced is as important there as the way it tastes hot. Many of the flavors of the rich Robustas and chocolatey Arabicas grown there seem to be brought out even more in icing. In iced coffee, you will actually taste a different range of flavors. Because of the flavor shifts, your favorite hot brew might not be your favorite iced brew. We offer some help below in maximizing your enjoyment of Vietnamese iced coffee, a treat that many consider the best in the world.
Vietnamese Coffeehouse Tradition
When iced coffee is served to a customer in a Vietnamese coffeeshop, the coffee is presented brewing hot in a single-cup filter/brewer, as shown in our picture here. The coffee drains into a glass, not a cup or mug. The patron is also given a second tall glass filled with cracked ice (not crushed, not large cubes, somewhere in-between).
When the coffee has finished brewing, the patron pours the coffee over the ice. Usually the coffee does not come to the top of the glass. The coffee is then sipped through the ice for a very chilled effect. What about cream and sugar? Usually it is served with sweetened condensed milk, if desired. Generally, a tablespoon or two of the condensed milk is placed into the first glass and the coffee brews onto the thick milk below. Before pouring into the glass of ice, the milk is stirred up into the coffee.
However, quite a few Vietnamese coffee drinkers feel that iced coffee should have less cream and sugar (or condensed milk) than hot coffee, because so many of the lighter tones are released when iced. Of course, adjust to your own taste.
Alternative brewing methods
We’ve just described the common coffehouse method. But that is a small-volume method, it is consumed right away, and it isn’t going to be much help if you want to make a pitcher of iced coffee for a garden party, or if you want to have a pitcher in the fridge for sipping on later.