Coffee of a different kind

Posted on February 19, 2012


Unless you’re not into Melbourne’s whole café culture thing, you’ll know that 3rd wave coffee has been what all the cool kids are talking about these days. I don’t really know what 3rd wave coffee is all about; it’s just beyond my level of understanding. Don’t get me wrong, I like coffee, quite a lot. And while I can distinguish the difference between a good and bad coffee, all those different shades of grey between good to excellent mean next to nothing to me.

So in a somewhat late attempt to understand this style of coffee, I checked out the trendy looking Sensory Lab (297 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC) adjoined to David Jones. I love how it looks like a science lab, with flasks of coffee bubbling away. Yup, am always going to be a geek at heart, there’s no hiding it.

Did you know that espresso coffee is becoming a bit too mainstream to be cool these days? The on trend thing to do is order a cold pressed coffee or siphoned coffee. In her educational spiel, the waitress told me that siphoned coffee produces coffee that is much sweeter and more subtle in flavour and should be drunk black and warm, not hot. This process for brewing coffee involves a few contraptions, hence the lab like atmosphere. There’s a flask of hot water underneath another flask of coffee. Apparently the vapour pressure from the hot water forces water into the upper chamber filled with ground coffee to produce the beverage. Now why couldn’t they have taught me something like that at high school chemistry?!

So the taste. Not being such an avid connoisseur, it just tasted like black coffee to me. It could have been an espresso for all I know. I can’t say I’ve been converted. And while the urbanites keep progressing in their knowledge/understanding and love affair with coffee, I seem to be taking a backwards step. I’ve rediscovered Vietnamese style ice white coffee.

For those unacquainted, it might be a strange concept. Asia’s known more for their tea rather than coffee (cue feedback calling me racist for making a generalised comment on Asians). It was the French colonists who introduced coffee to the Vietnamese, and it wasn’t too long till the green pastures of Vietnam bore their own coffee plantations. In a hot tropical climate without much access to fresh milk and fancy machinery, it’s not too surprising that the Vietnamese put their own spin on things. So ca phe sua da was born, and has become quite a popular drink. Fine ground coffee is individually brewed in these little metal contraptions and directly into the cup that’s been prefilled with a bit of condensed milk. Once the filtering process is complete, add in ice cubes or shaved ice, stir and viola. Iced white coffee.

I’m quite taken by this beverage these days. Maybe it’s the warm weather, but teamed up with a  bowl of slurpy noodle soup, this intensely bitter and sweet drink is a real treat. Just be warned though, not all Vietnamese eateries will serve the legitimate filtered coffee, some will just use instant coffee. So don’t judge this drink poorly before you’ve tried the real deal!