Crack Coffee

Saturday, November 22, 2014

You’re probably wondering what the heck is crack coffee?  “Cafe sua da” or Vietnamese iced coffee of course!  My friends and I call it crack coffee because it’s quite addictive.  

At our house, cafe sua da is an integral part of our morning ritual.  Both my husband and mom can’t live without it.  And one cup is never enough.  Growing up in Vietnam, I remember going to the supermarket with my mom and we couldn’t take a few steps without seeing another “quan cafe” or coffee shop.  Men congregate at the coffee shops as early as 5 A.M., getting their morning fix and enjoying a game of chess before starting their busy day.  

Although the French colonists introduced coffee to Vietnam in the mid 19th century, Vietnam has become one of the leading coffee exporters in the world.  Vietnamese are quite proud of their coffee and cafe sua da has become a quintessential drink of Vietnam.  Coffee is both a social and cultural part of Vietnamese life.  If you get a chance to travel to Vietnam, take in the cafe scene in Saigon.  It’s quite an experience.  Cafes cover every corner of the city  in the form of casual street stalls and rooftop patios to independent coffee houses.  No longer are the men dominating the cafe scene but University students, both guys and gals have integrated this into their daily ritual.  They drink coffee as a mean to catch up with friends and hang out.  

At its purest from, “cafe sua da” is made with Vietnamese dark roast coffee individually brewed with a “ca phe phin” or small metal drip filter.  At our house, we prefer Cafe Du Monde with chicory and Trung Nguyen premium blend.  The coffee slowly drips into a cup containing condensed milk, then stirred and ice added.  No sugar.  No cream.  Although most drink it with condensed milk, a small group prefers Ca Phe Chon, also known as civet coffee beans, at an outrageous price of $700 per kilogram.  Personally, I don’t prefer my coffee coming from an animal’s other end no matter how good it is.  My aunts who recently vacationed in Hanoi told me  that Hanoi people prefer their cafe sua da with a dollop of yoghurt or cafe sua chua.  We can’t wait to try this variation!  For now, we’ll share with you our recipe for cafe sua da.  Enjoy!

Cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee)

2 ½ to 3 tbsps Vietnamese coffee (Cafe Du Monde with chicory)
2 tbsps condensed milk to taste
½ cup of boiling water

1. Pour condensed milk into a small glass.
2. Remove lid and metal screen from coffee filter.  Add coffee.  Gently twist screen back on until it stops.  Don’t push screen all the way down or it will take longer for coffee to drip, unless you prefer a strong brew.
3. Place filter over the glass and add boiling water.  Place lid back on filter.
4. Let coffee drip for 5 minutes or until all the liquid has drained from filter.  If coffee stops dripping sooner, gently loosen the filter to relieve pressure.
5. Once coffee has finished dripping, remove filter.  Mix coffee and condensed milk together with a spoon.
6. Add ice, stir, and enjoy.


  1. Yum! I love Vietnamese iced coffee, and well, any coffee with chicory! Interesting to read that people add yogurt to coffee... never tried that before. Ah, I need to get one of the metal filters so I can make this at home :)

    1. hi Tina! I didn't know about adding yogurt to Vietnamese iced coffee either and I grew up in
      Vietnam. It's very popular in Hanoi. There's also a new thing about adding egg to coffee but I'm on the fence about that one. For the metal filters, you can find them at most Asian supermarkets. I hope you get that filter soon! You can also use a French press if you have that lying around.