Whenever the weather begins to turn warm, a hot cup of joe in the morning just won’t cut it anymore. To beat the heat and fuel up for the day, I eagerly style my daily fix after the Vietnamese Ca Phe Sua Da.
The story goes that French colonialists planted the crop in Vietnam, where fertile soil yielded remarkable results. But the country’s lack of dairy cows meant the café au lait-loving French needed some kind of alternative. Enter the sticky, sweet tins of condensed milk.
To fight the suffocating heat, the dark, bitter coffee and creamy, sweet milk would be shaken together over ice. And thus, the Ca Phe Sua Da (or iced milk coffee in English) was born.
Vietnamese immigrants to the United States found the watery drink that pleased Americans a sad replacement for their richer variety.
Some decided that the coarse-ground chicory blend at the famous Café du Monde in New Orleans was a suitable alternative. The habit of putting chicory in Vietnamese iced coffee continues in America to this day.
A true Ca Phe Sua Da utilizes a special type of maker, which can be found quite inexpensively.
Vietnamese Coffee Filter available on Amazon
Just mix the grounds and water in a French press the night before, and you’ll have a quick and simple way to enjoy a little caffeination on a hot summer’s morning (or any time when you’re in the mood for a sweet, chilled jolt of java).
Cold brew is not just a quick and simple method to make iced coffee, it produces a tasty, longer-lasting drink as well. Because the grounds never come into contact with heat, the resulting brew is less acidic.
Not only does this make for a smoother drink, it will stay fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks (if you manage not to drink it all sooner)!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Cold Brew
For a smooth cold brew, mix your grounds and cool water in the base of a French press. Either a medium or dark roast works best, so as not to be overpowered by the sweet milk.
For a fun American-style Vietnamese Iced Coffee twist, try using Café du Monde’s chicory blend.
Cafe Du Monde Coffee & Chicory available on Amazon
This recipe will fit a standard 32-ounce press, but if you only want to make a single serving, you can cut the ratio down to 8 ounces of water and 3 tablespoons of grounds. A variety of excellent French presses are available on the market today – check out our top picks here, so you can add one to your culinary arsenal just in time for iced latte season.
Place the lid on the press, but don’t push the handle down! Let it sit in the refrigerator at least ten hours – the longer it sits, the stronger your drink will become.
Step 2 – Press, Mix, and Serve
In the morning, press the plunger down to filter the brew. Pour it into a pitcher to mix with the sweetened condensed milk. If you have opted for a single serving, you can pour straight into a cup – a tablespoon of S.C.M. will do.
Serve over ice (with a straw, if you like!) and take a big, refreshing sip.
This tasty treat might not be a true Ca Phe Sua Da, but its simplicity cannot be beat. After you give it a try, your once sluggish summer mornings will never be the same.
For more tips on brewing the perfect cup of joe and a few more warm weather-friendly serving suggestions (and others that are perfect for any time of year!), check out our Coffee 101 article or see all of our coffee recipes.
If you want to truly immerse yourself in the world of coffee, bone up on coffee terms and lingo here.
Don’t forget to share your own twists on this sweet, satisfying beverage in the comments!
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Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC, except where otherwise noted. Vietnamese press filter photos courtesy of Thang Long and Cafe Du Monde can photo courtesy of Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans, LA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.