Iced Coffee, or Cà Phê Dá, Rules the Day in Hot and Humid Vietnam

March 26, 2019Martin Stokes
A Vietnamese iced coffee brewing through a filter. Photo via Getty Images.

A Vietnamese iced coffee brewing through a filter. Photo via Getty Images.

In a country that has two seasons — dry and wet — and the consistently high temperatures of perpetual summer, it’s no wonder that iced coffee, or cà phê dá, is the staple drink throughout Vietnam. While the drink is consumed as a hot beverage in the morning, mugs are swapped for tall glasses full of ice as the sun approaches its zenith, an effort to chill the coffee and combat the relentless heat and humidity of the climate.

Vietnamese iced coffee is as complicated as you make it; it is served and enjoyed in a variety of ways depending on the proclivities of the drinker. In its most basic form, it’s made using a medium- to coarse-ground dark roast, usually a robusta bean that is low in acidity and high in bitterness.

Once ground, the coffee is placed in a Vietnamese drip filter and then filled with hot water. This practice is slow and thorough, which results in a surprisingly strong filter coffee. The resultant brew is then poured over a glass of ice, and that’s your basic Vietnamese iced coffee.

Iced coffee prepared in the traditional way in Vietnam. Photo via Getty Images.

Another popular way of enjoying this drink is slightly unusual, at least by Western standards. While the standard coffee aficionado will almost always drink coffee black, it’s forgivable in some circumstances to mix in a splash of cold milk. The Vietnamese don’t do it this way. Instead, they eschew dairy milk and use the condensed variety. Prior to the drip-filter process, two or three tablespoons of the viscous white liquid are placed in the bottom of a glass and brewed coffee is poured on top. It is served this way to the customer, who is then expected to mix it together with a long spoon. The final product is called cà phê sữa đá (cafe soda). It’s cold and cloyingly sweet but still packs a caffeinated punch.

The reason for adding condensed milk is due to the struggle of Vietnam’s dairy industry to keep pace with its booming coffee trade during its burgeoning years. Since fresh milk was in such short supply, condensed milk was used by the French to temper the bitterness of the brew. It caught on in a big way, and to this day condensed milk is a popular addition to many types of Vietnamese coffees, including cà phê dá and cà phê trứng (cafe trung), or egg coffee.

If you’d like to make cà phê dá at home, the process is pretty straightforward. You’re going to need a Vietnamese coffee filter (which you can find on Amazon), some authentic Vietnamese coffee (Cafe du Monde or Trung Nguyen are available locally), condensed milk of any brand, a glass of ice, and a halfway decent kettle. Simply follow the instructions above, take your time, and when it’s ready, prepare yourself for a sweet and gratifying cold coffee drink.

Martin Stokes
Martin Stokes

Martin Stokes is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, but currently resides in Germany. He has numerous bylines that cover a variety of topics. He moved to Berlin in 2015 and, while writing for numerous publications, is working assiduously at broadening his repertoire of bad jokes.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
‘The Gift’ Explores the Life and Legacy of Medal of Honor Recipient Jason Dunham

"The Gift" tells the story of the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor after the Vietnam War. ...

March 24, 2023Mac Caltrider
uss milius
US Denies Chinese Claim It Drove Away American Destroyer

The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said that a statement from China's Southern Theatre Command that it had fo...

March 23, 2023Associated Press
The Speed Project: Vet Team To Run in Lawless, Invite-Only Ultramarathon

For the first time, a team of (mostly) US veterans and active-duty service members will run in The S...

March 23, 2023Jenna Biter
uranium-based ammo ammunition Ukraine UK depleted uranium
A Look At the Uranium-Based Ammo the UK Will Send to Ukraine

The British defense ministry on Monday confirmed it would provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

March 23, 2023Associated Press
Zaporizhzhia Ukraine Russia
Ukraine: Russia Hits Apartments and Dorm, Killing Civilians

“Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in a Telegr...

March 22, 2023Associated Press
cold brew coffee soda float
The Bitter Barista's Cold Brew Coffee Soda Float

Today, we combine the best of both worlds with this indulgent recipe, smashing together our love of coffee and ice cream with a cold brew coffee soda float!

March 21, 2023Heather Lynn
abrams tanks ukraine
US Speeds Up Abrams Tank Delivery to Ukraine War Zone

The original plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams, which could have taken a year or ...

March 21, 2023Associated Press
Coffee Or Die Photo
US: War Crimes on All Sides in Ethiopia's Tigray Conflict

The Biden administration announced Monday that it has determined all sides in the brutal conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

March 20, 2023Associated Press
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved