Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Ca Phe

My addiction to caffeine came on rather late in life. It all started in Israel on Kibbutz Ein Carmel. Having a cup of coffee and a chat with Marit made working on the animal farm all the more better. I miss those days, sitting outside in the sun, surrounded by chickens, geese, sheep etc. talking about everything and nothing. My caffeine habit continued over the years, as I started to buy low quality beans from various outlets. Finally when we moved to London, I started buying higher quality products at the Algerian Coffee Store. Now I was on the hard stuff. 

My kinda coffee mornings continued all the way till I quit work in late January, as I would go with someone to buy a coffee at Cafe Nero. Coffee for me is more of a sociable activity than a solitary one. In this way it resembles drinking Mate, that fabulous Argentinean beverage, which is supposed to be drunk with other people. 
On this trip I found the Japanese are not really coffee drinkers. We found one or two good places to buy, but not that many. I managed to get my fix most days in Hong Kong at the Pacific Coffee House. Thailand and Cambodia were a bit of a washout, as I refuse unless sheer desperation sets in, do I go into a Starbucks. 
When we arrived in Saigon, I knew I was in heaven. I had dabbled with Vietnamese coffee before, back in London. Nothing major, just 250g here or there ..... That burnt buttery taste and the thick dark elixir was divine. So I was so happy to be in its spiritual home. So after finding our hotel, dumping the bags, I literally ran out the door for a little pick me up. What I encountered excited me. I was given a cup and a metal drip filter on top of it. This filter looks like a top hat, the lid rests on top and is used as a saucer for the filter once the coffee has dripped through. If you are in urgent need of your fix, this process can really mess with you, as it is excruciatingly slow. But believe me the end result is fantastic. 
What surprised me, was the inclusion of sweet condensed milk, this I haven't encountered since I was a child, as my mum used to use it a lot, but it went out of fashion in the late seventies or early Eighties. At first I have to say I really didn't like the sweet taste, but after the following few sips, it started to grow on me and by the end of the cup I was hooked. What I had is known as Ca Phe Sua Nong (Hot milk coffee) in Vietnam. This became my regular fix. I find Vietnamese coffee without the condensed milk much to bitter. It's almost like overdosing on the stuff.
Generally by late morning or early afternoon, when the temperature would get too much for me, I would have to have a Ca Phe Sua Da (Iced Milk Coffee). Heaven. Same preparation as before, but you either get a glass of ice as well for you to either add to the coffee after it was done or vice versa. I preferred to add coffee to ice, as the glass was always cold and it cooled the coffee quicker. Sometimes you would get it all mixed together for you, which just takes all the anticipation away for you. It's the fun, letting the coffee drip down very slowly into the cup. 
What really annoys me is that some places automatically think that we only drink Nescafe. Really annoying these stereotypes. I mean how many people actually enjoy drinking instant coffee, once they've tasted fresh coffee. 
For me one of my over riding memories of Vietnam will always be its coffee. I am well and truly hooked. Lifetime addiction. Now how am I going to get Vietnamese coffee in Colombia. 

Thankyou Marit, May your Soul forever fly free ....

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