Nothing wakes me up better than a big mug of steaming black coffee. Lactose intolerance has bid goodbye to the otherwise South Indian decoction or filter coffee obsession. Since I never liked sugar in my coffee or ‘kaapi’, I now enjoy the full-bodied flavours of a good roast in its truest sense.
So, when the Vietnamese Phin trend caught on, I was hooked. There were videos after videos on social media of people enjoying this exotic brew, hot or cold, with a dinky little drip device or ‘phin’ doing the task. Fascinated, I decided to take a little detour from my normal dark roast medium ground French Press drink to Vietnam’s trending export.
A great cup of coffee…
It all starts with the beans, especially the type of roast plays a big role – darker the roast, stronger the result. It also is a fine line between strong and nutty or rubbery and bitter. Moreover, the brewing technique can either make or break it all. So, each element plays a key role.
Global data shows that Vietnam is the world’s number one exporter of Robusta coffee beans. It has Arabica too, which is predominant globally including the Middle East, but 97 per cent of its produce is Robusta.
And I was very familiar with this coffee, the cool climes of Coorg in Karnataka, India, are famed for delivering some of the world’s best Robusta profiles – sweet and smooth. And guess what I used to love to use it for, well, filter coffee! Another traditional, drip coffee that is almost identical in process to the Vietnamese Phin, I went on to learn.
And there you have it, my big reveal – south Indian filter coffee and Vietnamese Phin coffee are identical in brewing technique. That settled, I was off in my quest to find actual Vietnamese Robusta. Amazon came to the rescue.
Amazon.com to be precise. I used international delivery to get about 350 grams of Vietnamese Fair Trade Organic Single Origin ‘Truegrit Peaberry Robusta Coffee Bean’, roasted in Brooklyn, New York, delivered. The same was the case for the sweetened condensed milk usually used in Vietnam. I found the brand ‘Longevity’, too, on Amazon’s international portal.
Caffe Vergnano Seicento 600 Espresso Classico Coffee Beans, 1Kg
Lavazza Qualità Rossa Whole Bean Coffee, Medium Roast, 1 kg
Lavazza Super Crema Coffee Beans (1kg)
Both arrived in about 10 days. I ground the coffee using my much-loved grinder from Bosch. I swear by its quality and sustainability. In fact, it is one of my favourite items to gift anyone who likes coffee or cooks. I have two, one is used to make freshly ground spice mixes – in less than 30 seconds!
Bosch Coffee Grinder, Black
Angel Condensada Sweetened Condensed Milk, 380g
Nestlé Sweetened Condensed Milk Can 395g
While waiting for the beans and condensed milk, I shopped around for the ‘phin’. Amazon.ae gave me some pretty good options with Prime service, especially one from the well known Vietnamese Coffee company Trung Nguyen.
I picked the phin that looked the most traditional.
Vietnamese Dripper Coffee Machine Filter (6oz)
There were a couple more options equally noteworthy.
Phuong Hoang Vietnamese Coffee Filter, Made in Vietnam (8oz)
The actual brew
The coffee came with the dark, bold hue of a good French roast, in fact, here’s a small nugget of information – it is the French who introduced coffee to Vietnam in late nineteenth century, so the roast is dark, as favoured in France, and the phin bears resemblance to the French Press. Voilà!
Bodum Java French Press Coffee Maker, Black, 0.35 Litre
The coffee was ground, took me less than a minute. The phin was washed, dried and ready. The condensed milk decanted into an airtight jam jar.
I took a ceramic mug, coffee tastes best in them. Added a tablespoon of condensed milk. Some might add 2 or 3 tablespoons. It is all a matter of preference. Then I placed the phin on the mouth of the cup.
ARTIART (Taiwan) Vitality Sky Ceramic Suction Mug with Airtight Lid (260ml, Grey)
I took about 2 heaped tablespoons of coffee and put it in the phin. Tap ever so slightly, don’t tamp down hard. The water will not get through.
Then, placed the sieve on top of it. Added boiling hot water till about half an inch from the rim. Covered it and left.
Multifunction Stainless Steel Coffee Scoop
Black+Decker Concealed Coil Kettle, White, 1.7 litres, 2 Year Warranty
It took a good hour for all the coffee to drip through. Added some more hot water, you can also add cold water with some ice cubes for good measure, gave it a good stir and took the first sip.
Spoon NIBEMINENT 2 Pcs Stainless Long Handled Coffee Ice Cream Dessert Tea Spoon
It was strong! The taste was delicious and had enough caffeine to make you sit up instantly. The next time around, I would definitely reduce the amount of coffee I use. But, definitely worth the effort.
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