Vietnamese Caf’e | strong as Superman

Cafe Sua da
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This is a picture of Caf’e sua da. Iced coffee with condensed milk and a kick that will wake you up instantly.

Vietnamese Coffee.

Vietnamese coffee is arguably some of the best in the world. And it has saved me time and time again in the classroom.

But let’s talk about Vietnamese coffee and the culture of coffee in Vietnam first.

If you think the major chains are producing good coffee you have a fantastic experience waiting for you.

Vietnamese coffee is strong. It is mainly made with Robusta and sometimes Arabica beans. It has a very high caffeine level with 200-300 grams per serve being normal. It will have you up and running in no time.

This coffee is as strong as Superman and can be bitter to those unaccustomed to the taste. Most Vietnamese put sugar in their coffee. Milk does not go in coffee in Vietnam. Condensed milk is the “go-to’ if you want white coffee. It also makes it sweeter.

There are three main types of coffee you can buy in the coffee shops. Caf’e Den ( Black Coffee), Caf’e Sua Da (Coffee with condensed milk and ice), and Caf’e Da ( Black coffee with ice). Try them all in one sitting and you won’t need your motorbike to get home. You can fly home.

Coffee shops in Vietnam are like the bars of the USA or Australia. You will never be far from a coffee shop in Vietnam. From the smallest village to the biggest city. Coffee shops, from the luxurious to street coffee stalls, are everywhere to be found.

The Southern Highlands.

Most of the Coffee plantations are located in the highlands of Vietnam. Places like Dalat and Pleiku.

I spent 9 months teaching the wonderful children and teenagers in Pleiku. Pleiku is an interesting city with a lot of Russian architecture. They helped Vietnam rebuild after the war. It is a very quiet city where most shops and businesses are closed by 9 pm.

If you come to Vietnam, I would recommend getting out of the major cities and exploring some of the less-traveled areas.

We went on a field trip in Pleiku and I could smell the coffee as we drove past the plantations.It was total sensory overload. Even on a bus with 50 sweaty students and teachers, I could still smell the amazing aromas.

What did the teachers drink for lunch, beer? Damn. Pleiku and Dalat are a lot hillier than the coastal cities. They are also cooler with fresh breezes that invigorate the soul. A perfect environment for growing and harvesting excellent coffee beans.

Coffee and the Classroom.

Coffee may be the second favorite drink of ESL Teachers in Vietnam. But it is the one allowed in the classroom. Coffee in the classroom is enjoyed by both the Teachers and the students.

OMG, I first thought when I entered a classroom and the kids, 8 and 9-year-olds, were knocking back coffee and Red Bull.

Just what you need when you have had a big night and the students are bouncing off the walls. “What are you drinking”, It’s ok teacher, it’s not beer.

How to make a Vietnamese Coffee.

I am going to talk about making a Caf’e sua da. Because with everything else you just leave out some ingredients.

You will need,

Course ground coffee. Trung Nguyen is a popular and trustworthy brand found in most supermarkets and shops.

A Phin. A small metal drip filter system. It takes a few minutes to prepare, so be patient. The phin comes in 4 parts. A larger circular “tray” fits over your glass. Then the main “bowl” where you put a teaspoon or two ( I like it strong) in the bottom of the bowl. Slowly pour a little boiling water over this. Then add the 2nd circular “tray” that comes with a handle, on top of this. Add more coffee, 2 more teaspoons, to the 2nd tray.  Yahoo. Then put the lid on the top. And wait.

Condensed milk. Yes condensed not the normal milk. Vietnamese coffee is bitter. let’s sweeten it up.

Ice. Or Da in Vietnamese. It is hot here. let us get our hit and stay cool at the same time.

Boiling water. Come on, you know how to do that.


Get a long tall glass, I like it fancy. Fill up with about 10 mills of condensed milk. Different regions of Vietnam use different amounts. I was in Tra Vinh, in the South, and they use a lot.

Next, boil the water.  While the water is boiling, or do it before, ( I am not the coffee police) put your coarse ground coffee in the Phin. Hang in there, I told you where.

Pour the boiling water on the top. The Phin should be on top of the glass with the condensed milk. If not, you got some cleaning to do.

Now, wait……   Wake up, it’s ready.

Now, add the ice. Not big chunky bits. beat it down a bit. Most Vietnamese have a small cloth bag they can break up their ice in. Civilization.


For caf’e den, no ice or condensed milk. For Caf’e Sua Den, no condensed milk.

Now you are an expert. Practice, refine to your taste, wear a Vietnamese hat, and freak out your neighbors.

If you want to try this at home, you will need these. To find out more about Vietnam visit my site.

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