Okay, who am I kidding with all of this fall talk? It's still hot outside. ( I tried to fool myself the other day with a long sleeved T-shirt and nearly passed out from heat exhaustion.) So I'll have to satisfy myself psychologically with seasonal projects while accepting reality, namely, the need for iced coffee.
I'm addicted to caffeine. No sugarcoating it. But like most things that become a need rather than a pleasure, I found over time that it just wasn't as much fun as it used to be. I powered through cups of coffee every day in an effort to stay minimally awake. However, as my energy levels are becoming more balanced, I find that I don't need nearly as much coffee to get through my day. It's a relief, it's allowed me to experience the pleasure of ritual again.
On a sweltering summer afternoon this year, I had the bliss of an afternoon with my friend Natalie and my first experience with iced Vietnamese coffee at The Orange Couch. It was so luxurious, it was almost like having dessert. An occasion to indulge in pleasure rather than simple, greedy refueling.
It's a DIY affair at The Orange Couch, so I experienced the slow dripping of chicory coffee into a mug already containing condensed milk. Afterwards, a stir to bring it all together, and a pour over ice. No need for additional sweeteners or dairy. It's thick and rich, not the watered down mixture that often passes for iced coffee. I was instantly hooked.
It's easy to make Vietnamese coffee at home. You can order an inexpensive phin and coffee online, even the sweetened condensed milk, if you desire. Of course, convenience has its place, too, and I'm elated by the bottled version I can buy from Magasin, one of my favorite local Vietnamese restaurants. Their bottled coffee isn't available for mail order yet, but Caphin out of Houston, TX is now selling their bottled brew online. Buy a case and stash it away for those occasions when the usual cup of joe just won't do.
Here's how to make it at home --
Iced Vietnamese Coffee
2 Tablespoons dark roast ground coffee (see Resources)
2 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove the top screen from the filter, add coffee, then screw the top screen on. Place the filter over a 12-oz. heatproof container or glass that contains the condensed milk.
Pour a splash of hot water into the filter, to allow the coffee grounds to bloom. As the coffee begins to drip through, add enough water to reach the top of the filter. Place the lid back on the filter and let the coffee drip through, about 4 minutes. (If the coffee stops dripping before 4 minutes has passed, you may need to gently loosen the screw to relieve the pressure.)
Stir to combine, then pour over ice.
Something you may not know about New Orleans - We have a large, vibrant Vietnamese population, so Vietnamese food is as much a part of our current cuisine as the usual fare that's synonymous with New Orleans culture.
Want to get into details? Coffee Geek has a detailed analysis (and tutorial) for making the best Vietnamese coffee possible.
Phins (coffee filter sets) are available at many Asian stores, also through Amazon. I've linked to the single serving size here, but they do come in different sizes.
I use Eagle Brand condensed milk since it's the most readily available, but you can buy Longevity brand online.